Learn From These Five Weaknesses of All Leaders

“There is no way to know what’s going on in a tiger’s head. We just don’t have the technology.” Michael Scott – The Office

The character of Michael Scott in “The Office,” played by Steve Carrell, fascinates me. He’s just the worst. (All leaders need to watch a few episodes of the office; I particularly recommend Season 5, Episode 14). Great leaders know there’s a bit of Michael in all of us.

  1. Never enough training. Did Michael ever get any leadership training from Dunder-Mifflin? Was he ever evaluated – Myers-Briggs, Hogan, anything? Though most leaders have had many iterations of training and mentoring, you can never know enough about how to effectively lead. And leading requires adaptation  – the way we were trained to lead in the early 2000s or late 90s needs refreshing (see: gig economy, digital natives).
  2. Makes mistakes. Michael’s mistakes include running over an employee and being financially inept. While most of us are not that bad – we all make mistakes. Leaders more so than anyone are no exception. Leaders should take blame and give praise.
  3. Inability to take constructive criticism. Michael thinks he is the smartest person in the room and can’t deal with the slightest input. He praises the yes-person and negates people who push back. Leaders need to solicit feedback constantly and truly listen. Leaders are not the smartest people in the room, are not always right, and don’t have all the answers.
  4. Indecisive. Michael is incapable of tough decisions (new chairs or new printer? merit or across-the-board raises?), which causes churn and angst for his team. Leaders who unduly delay decisions are grit in the gears. Make a decision, monitor the results, adjust accordingly.
  5. Doesn’t appreciate Human Resources. Michael has no appreciation for the Human Resources function, or workforce management in general. Leaders can feel restrained by regulations and policies, often considering them “just overhead.” And while some regulations are arduous, unfunded mandates, leaders need to appreciate corporate functions like HR, Audit, Legal, Compliance. Put the leaders of those functions at the table. Correctly applied, with the right balance, they can enhance the organization. Also, if leaders disrespect these functions, others will also.

Leaders are human. We step into pants and skirts one leg at a time like everyone else. We need to get trained, admit to and learn from mistakes, seek criticism, be decisive, and appreciate all organizational functions.

“There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.” Yogi Berra

Worth considering:

Go slow to go fast: I was stacking logs the other day (in New Hampshire, we prepare early). I was going for speed, and my daughter said “mom, hold on, put the longest ones on the bottom of the stack.” By being thoughtful and taking the time to build a strong base, we had a better woodpile.

Tech company ownership of broadband infrastructure continues. The FASTER consortium, which includes Google and China Telecom, just turned on its new undersea cable between the US, Japan and Taiwan. (Recall that Microsoft and Facebook are building a cable between the US and Europe.)

Occurs to me that the correspondence course was the precursor of today’s MOOC. CorrCourse.PNG






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