When Leadership Fails

By Douglas Weinstein
Published on: December 29, 2017

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I came across this huge conglomerate that – on first blush – had everything going for it. Technology, the capability of moving at the speed of light, lots of talented people, and what appeared from the outside looking in to be an unlimited amount of resources. But on closer inspection, it was apparent that a rogue outfit, a small rebellious competitor, was eating them for lunch. I took a closer look and came to the conclusion that what was holding back this conglomerate was a leadership team who just didn’t know how to manage their people. The company culture was horrible – with rampant employee abuse that was perpetuated from year to year, from leadership team to leadership team. In fact, this culture had been building for many years. The bottom line – they were a bunch of screamers and demeaners who had little time for errors and total disregard for their own people. And no one likes working for those kinds of people.

The roots of this large firm begins, as stories often do, in a galaxy far, far away, in a time long, long ago. The original founders shared this malevolent style of leadership that seems to have taken hold of the firm under some guy with a dark, evil personality. And it continues to this day. It is as if a dark force had taken hold of senior management. Anyway, as I took a closer look at performance metrics, it was easy to see that initiative and risk-taking were clearly frowned upon and stifled whatever ambition the next generation of leaders might have had. People were afraid of their own shadows.

We’ve discussed these issues before and there are still a lot of companies that try to ‘rule’ by intimidation. In this case, their approach was just exasperating the problems they were having to deal with. Small competitors can often out maneuver their larger rivals, and enlightened leadership (and leaders) look for the positives that can be amplified to make the firm stronger across all departments and product sectors.

On the other hand, their competitor – let’s call them the Rebellion – clearly valued individual entrepreneurship and quick thinking. Their people were diverse and educated, and had a great company culture. It was as if a force was driving them to the light and to accomplishment. Yes, they were small and scrappy and lacked the resources of their much larger competitor – but they had heart. And that goes a long way in today’s business environment.

Sometimes, all of the money in the world and all of the technology and resources that can be amassed are no match for strong leadership and a positive workplace. Threats and yelling and screaming just really have no place in today’s business environment – unless you want a bunch of useless drones working for you.

I’ll probably come back to this story in a year or so and revisit it. Because the little company was on a recruiting binge and I’m keeping my eye on them. Some of their ads and their LinkedIn profile were quite catchy. Their number one tag line is – May the Force Be With You.

Douglas Weinstein

Douglas Weinstein

Doug is the managing editor and co-founder of the Technology Insider Group. Previously, he was the co-founder and Executive Director of the Elf Foundation, a non-profit organization that created Room of Magic entertainment theaters in children’s hospitals across North America.

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