Everyone likes their leaders to take fast decisions and then stick by the decision in the face of diversity . They like leaders to be proactive and everyone else to be reactionary. Guess what – that is also how three year olds generally work ! But you don’t want your leaders to behave like a three year old , do you ?
Sadly, this is rather common and many of us would have had a boss who acted this way . I certainly had – more than once !
There are a few things that can (and should ) differentiate a leader from a three year old .
1. Ability to change course when needed
Despite best of intentions, some times we have to take decisions that are awful . But unlike a three year old who would just throw a tantrum when challenged – a leader should listen patiently , weigh options and change course if needed .
The hallmark of good parents – according to my late grandmother – is that they let the young kids win some battles while they always win the war . I think that applies to managers too 🙂
2. Communicate clearly instead of yelling and screaming
I don’t honestly mind leaders swearing occasionally . But I do not think yelling and screaming are hallmarks of a good leader ( or follower) . Neither is public shaming of their followers for a failed strategy .
3. Identify and fix the flawed strategy behind the failed execution
There is no such thing as a great strategy that just failed in execution . Leaders cannot absolve themselves of execution failures . If you didn’t hire the right people or if you misjudged the macro economy – that is on you and your strategy . Accept it , fix it and move on – don’t just blame execution sitting in an ivory tower . Better yet , let your best execution people provide direct input to strategy before you hold them accountable to results .
A lady who was my team leader several years ago used to say “pick your team with the same due diligence as you would when you pick a nanny for your child”. It took me a long time to appreciate what she meant .
4. Accept responsibility (and share credit )
As a leader , you have to delegate authority every time you delegate responsibility . If you say “go for it” and hang back without providing resources to get stuff done – you are in three year old territory .
When my daughter got into trouble when she was a three year old, she would use “it’s daddy’s fault” as her way out . I always thought it was cute and even enjoyed it while it lasted – but that works with kids because they grow up and you have time to fix it . She stopped saying that pretty quickly . The trouble with adults who blame others is that they don’t always “grow up” – it takes a lot more time and effort and often needs intervention from an authority figure .
All that being said , very few people are honest evaluators of themselves . I know that I am not always critical of my flaws, How much ever hard I try . And so, employees who wait for managers to “grow up” seldom see any fruitful results .
Depending on your job situation, there might not be a lot you can do if your manager chooses to be a three year old instead of a leader . This is is why many choose to ignore such managers and try to do their job with blinders on . But – there are many who successfully help change their managers and help them be better leaders . I will share some stories on those brave hearts in another post.