Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Crazy Senior Managers

Sometimes it seems that the more senior a leader is the crazier they act. I've usually attributed that to people having very little insight into the kinds of issues senior leaders worry about. The bigger the gap, the less insight people have into what a senior leader does.

Less kind people claim the Peter Principle as the cause of crazy senior leader behavior. Perhaps that's as good an explanation.

I was talking to someone at work who suggested two other factors. These seemed like plausible explanations as well:

  • First, the more senior a leader gets the more likely people are to show deference to what they say. After a while, a senior leader may be so used to hearing people say that their crazy ideas are right that they start to believe that all of their crazy ideas are right. We all would do well to guard against this error of self-perception by encouraging (and listening to) real feedback throughout our careers.
  • Second, and I hope this isn't true very often, senior leaders are more likely to get into competitive situations with their peers. And those peers are more likely to sit back and watch each other fail with their crazy ideas, even hope they will fail. I hope none of us find ourselves in such an organization.
  • As we advance up the leadership ladder, we will have crazy ideas of our own. Certainly we should guard ourselves against thinking too highly of ourselves or putting our own success ahead of the team's success. With any luck, we'll keep learning and beat the Peter Principle. But if I'm right about people not understanding what their senior leaders do, we need to be extra diligent in communicating the whys behind our actions. People deserve to feel safe under our leadership.

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