Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chief Command-And-Control Officer not needed

"Delegation is the art of second best", said the Dubai Sheikh being interviewed for Discovery Channel's Richest People Of The Middle East documentary.
He added that "no one can do it better than the person who founded it and created it and knows what he wants out of it". He was referring to his dream of hosting a Grand Prix in his homeland. He was rationalizing his need to control every detail of the event.
Dawn photo image of a Dubai Grand Prix car in front of the Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab
Did his highness mean to say that delegating the programming of broadcast equipment to engineers would be second best to him doing it? By any chance, did he also think that it would be best for him to drive every car in the race since other drivers were clearly not at his level?
This is an area of the world where political leaders spend half their day individually listening to dozens of citizen complains as a way to demonstrate that they are in touch with their people. I said dozens because a day does not allow for much more than that. How then could they ever expect to run a large institution, like a nation, if they are involved with every little detail?
In response to the comment that delegation results in "second best" performance, I would suggest to his highness that he needs to learn how to hire qualified people instead of the incompetents that he obviously surrounded himself with.
Now, I am well aware that Dubai and other Arab Emirates have created incredible urban icons, like the Burj Al Arab, and that those accomplishments were possible only because of the fantastic work of some of the best engineers and architects in the world. But what I wonder is whether the people leading these Emirates know this fact as well? Anyone who thinks that delegation renders lower results has certainly missed the incredible landmarks that are rising over there daily. Many of these leaders design their own homes to show that they are great designers. Why? With their money, I would rather hire Frank Gehry to design my house. There is no way that one of my designs could out-cool Gehry's.
image of Frank Gehry building
Architect Frank Gehry
Even our armed forces now know that generals can not get involved with every aspect of war. Modern military intelligence ensures that information and decisions flow in whichever direction is best. Field intelligence often responds to threats much more rapidly than would otherwise be possible the old fashion way. In the past, a command and control mindset meant that everything flowed from top leaders to bottom soldiers. Bottlenecks were created as everybody had to wait for leaders who were burdened with so many details that they had no time for important stuff.
But command and control problems were not limited to yesterday's military. These had spread throughout business too. As thousands of military leaders returned from World War II, they were asked for their service once again.
black and white image of World War II returning heroes being welcomed home in a parade.Burgeoning manufacturing companies hired these heroes as managers. After the global industrial complex was left in shambles because of the war, American industrial companies experienced historic success. At the same time, former generals, colonels and majors deployed the same command and control techniques learned while at war. As a result, the image of the business leader who screams orders, is perpetually busy and is emotionally detached became iconic. It created an ideal image for millions of aspiring managers to follow.
Thankfully, there is plenty of evidence that such larger-than-life characters aren't necessarily effective leaders. From the great Emotional Intelligence work by Daniel Goleman to Jim CollinsLevel 5 Leader, we know that leaders must be much more inclusive in order to successfully navigate against the competition. Jack Welch's personal adviser, Peter Drucker, quantified the rate of change in the importance of delegation. It turns out that forty years ago, only 10% of a scientists' work required help from other scientists. In the late nineties, this changed to more than 62%. Even the smartest people in the world have to communicate their vision to others and count on their assistance to reach success. The image of the solitary inventor who innovates by divine intervention is no longer valid. Modern scientists are social animals first.
old image of a typical command and control manager; the typical office asshole
Surviving Workplace Assholes
If a person feels to be sufficiently smart to accomplish her goals, then the goals are simply not ambitious enough. Leaders with great dreams depend on the synergistic work of brilliant and effective teams. As Jim Collins once wrote, "people are not your most important asset. The right people are". Yesterday's manager had to be brilliant because selecting great people for their team was not important. On the other hand, the manager of today is dead-on-arrival without having access to the best people in the industry.
Command and control blinds business leaders from the fact that it is incredibly valuable to hire people who are better or smarter than they are. This blindness is what makes business owners think that employees are incompetent and that leaders are the only people who can get things done.
And why do managers need the best people available? To delegate big and complex responsibilities. Today, leadership is no longer just about the leader. A leader will often have to follow guidance from subordinates who are more knowledgeable and capable on the subject at hand. In 360 degree leaderJohn Maxwell illustrates how important it is for mid level managers to lead upward as well as sideways. In order to accept orders from an employee, you must be a leader who's very comfortable in his own skin. Any emotional insecurity and the whole delegation thing will go out the window.
It is time to eradicate the obsolete and unproductive command and control system. Build the best team you can. Hire people who are much better than you. Dream big. Reach your goals.

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