Why Leadership Is Bad For Your Organization

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Right from a young age we are trained to be great leaders, leadership is recognized and force fed into our system of thinking. We are told repeatedly that great leaders are the ones that shape the future and make a difference. This same line of thinking follows us throughout our collegiate and work careers. Thus, companies and colleges invest millions and millions of dollars to train employees/students on leadership while bookstores and libraries scramble to cram their shelves with the latest leadership books. But the irony of this all is that leadership actually kills organizations. Because when everyone leads…no one follows…and nothing gets done!

If everyone leads, who follows?

Unfortunately, too many organizations fail to realize this and end up suffering from what I call LEADERSHIP PARALYSIS…a hypothetical situation that occurs when an organization is not able to function because it has too many leaders. You don’t need to search far to find a case of leadership paralysis as it occurs daily around us…it is that manager that gets a rise from ordering people around, but is ultra quick to complain when he is given similar instructions by his superior. It is that soccer team that has 11 captains on the field, all directing and instructing play simultaneously with nobody listening. And the symptom of either situation is normally the same…frustration, failure and confusion!
 

The solution to this is a drastic shift away from our leadership obsession. This can be done by recognizing outstanding followership just in the same way we recognize outstanding leadership. We should also look to train our employee’s and students on the virtues and importance of following. Our ultimate goal would be to develop persons who can follow and lead simultaneously. This multi-dimensional emphasis on training will help create inspiring stories such as that told by author John Miller in his book THE QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION…
 

On a beautiful day, John stopped by the Rock Bottom restaurant in Minneapolis for a quick lunch. He had just sat down when a young man carrying a tray full of dirty dishes hurried past him on his way to the kitchen. But noticing John from the corner of his eye he stopped and asked “Sir, have you been helped?” John replied “no, I haven’t. but all I really want is a salad and a couple of rolls.”
 

“I can get you that, sir. What would you like to drink?”
 

“I’ll have a Diet Coke, please.” John replied.
 

But unfortunately, the restaurant did not sell Diet Coke…so John opted for water with lemons instead.
 

The waiter ran off and moments later arrived with the salad, rolls and water. He quickly ran off again…but suddenly out of nowhere came back with a large twenty-ounce bottle of DIET COKE! John was pleasantly surprised and obviously confused by this gesture, especially since the restaurant did not sell diet coke. So he got the waiters attention and waved him over.
 
“Excuse me, I thought you didn’t sell Coke,” John said.
 
“That’s right, sir, we don’t.”
 

“Well, where did this come from?”
 

“The grocery store around the corner, sir.”
 

John was taken aback.
 

“Who paid for it?” he asked.
 

“I did sir; just a dollar.”
 

“You’ve been awfully busy. How did you have time to go get it?” Smiling he replied
“I didn’t, sir. I sent my Manager!”
 

He sent his Manager! Unbelievable! How many managers would actually carry out a task like that for their staff? And more importantly, how many managers, organizations or institutions create an environment where employees can approach them with such a request? The answer is “too few.”
 

What happens instead is that people are intimidated by leaders. Afraid to correct them, afraid to come to them for advise and afraid to make suggestions to them. This fear is created by the same problem “An obsessive addiction to Leadership.” This addiction thus leads to the creation of leaders who have no real life understanding of what it is to follow. So they lead in one direction…from the top-down. They view people beneath them as trivial subjects created to execute their many demands. And this mono-directional style leadership causes a push back from followers and ends up creating friction between leaders and followers within an organization. The inability to lead in dual directions is developed out of a failure to recognize followership as a worthy role.
 

Unfortunately, nothing can get done by leadership alone, it takes a strong and motivated group of followers to get things done. And when followers see leaders serving and respecting them, they in turn will begin serving and respecting leaders creating a cycle of efficiency where organizations can function at an optimal level. So let’s fight to make followership a real word, lets fight for the emphasis of servitude in our schools, let’s fight to re-structure our Leadership training programs to include followership, let’s fight to fill our libraries with books on followership and above all, lets us fight to stop our addiction to Leadership. When we do so, we would begin to see the friction between leaders and followers slowly disappear and in return our organizations excel!
 

Ofili is an award winning motivational speaker, author, life coach and entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more FREE success TIPS!”

Ofili

Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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28 comments on “Why Leadership Is Bad For Your Organization

  1. Very good post Ofili! And I love that story! I completely agree with you that the ultimate goal should be to train people to lead and follow simultaneously. Wouldn’t it be great if people being trained for leadership roles were made to understand that they were not above anyone else just because they got paid more? I think it’s just a human way of thinking- when you’re made a leader/manager you finally get the chance to boss people around! We need to get away from that mentality.

    • Ofili on said:

      Thanks Renny. Hopefully organizations begin realizing this issue and begin training leaders that can simultaneously follow!

  2. Nice read Ofili. Funny enough, your restaurant example reminds me of an I/O project that I assisted with in school. A multi-national company needed a screening exam to figure out how to select employees, in a certain African country, that would be able to fit into the company culture. They were having problems with employees (followers) that were afraid to speak up to leadership, suggest creative ideas superiors, or speak to their bosses about issues that they saw.

    • Ofili on said:

      Speaking from experience…mono-directional leadership is really really bad in Nigeria. Everybody wants to be the boss and nobody wants to serve…really bad. Hopefully we can change that mentality of thinking. I doubt that a screening exam will solve anything. A longer term solution is needed…

  3. Pyrojelli on said:

    yep, house in smack dab centered on the south pole, so all windows face northward. Either that OR ironically you could place it over the north pole so inwardly facing someone looking in, a peeping tom perhaps, would always be looking towards the north no matter what window.

  4. Pyrojelli on said:

    yep, house in smack dab centered on the south pole, so all windows face northward. Either that OR ironically you could place it over the north pole so inwardly facing someone looking in, a peeping tom perhaps, would always be looking towards the north no matter what window.

  5. Sholgirl on said:

    Awesome!!!. This is so true.
    As per paolo, is there a square house? A square house will be a wall with four windows facing only one direction..pls send me my book. Thanks!..lol..:)

  6. Gech-sully on said:

    it’s possible to have all the windows face north because the house is in/at the south pole.

  7. Bili Sule on said:

    I have to say that this article makes SO much sense. Recently went for a Leadership training course, and I found it ironic that we were given activities to work on as a “team” in order to facilitate learning about “leadership.”
    It all turned into a bit of a power struggle. You are so right! We often think about such things in one dimension. What I have personally learnt from this is to always stop and think about whether or not the opposite of a technique is beneficial, and think about what a good balance would be.

    Thanks for the wise words, and keep up the good work! 🙂
    Bili Sule

    • Ofili on said:

      Even for me as a leader I have to remind myself to respect others and see things from their perspective…and more importantly to find out ways I can serve them versus them just serving me. It is a paradigm shift in thinking that is needed for society but it begins with us…

  8. Radomako423 on said:

    Paolo lives in a square house that has one window on each of its sides. All four windows face north. How is this possible?An alternative answer:The square (or cubic) house has three floors. The ceiling and bottom of each floor has a window, which all face north!radomako423@yahoo.com

  9. I understand what you’re going for, but it really depends on how you define leadership. True leadership to me (and a lot of people I know) is all the things you have described in this post. So I don’t think leadership is bad for any organization. It is exactly what organizations need, not managers. Because someone is called a leader and does it wrong does not make leadership itself a bad thing. ‘Leadership’ is not a title, it is a trait that needs to be constantly developed.

  10. Daji on said:

    Reminds me of Arlo Guthrie Alice’s Restaurant, about So get off the bench and sing. At first they think you are nuts, and do not listen. But if you two do it bsaeuce they think you are so bundles [remember, this is 1965], and not trust or one of you. But if the three youget up, bsaeuce people do business. And nothing can stop the business. mad or not, this is how leadership happens.

  11. Pamelia on said:

    Nov04Chris Dunagan I’d never heard of Paris Reidhead before (not that that means anhyting). Wondered who he is/was. This clip is, I believe, an excerpt from a sermon entitled Ten Sheckels And A Shirt, his most famous and most widely circulated recorded teaching. (The text of the sermon is available on a website published to circulate his teachings.) He did a lot of good works, but this one sermon alone could have been a life’s work. Following is from Wikipedia:Paris Reidhead (May 30. 1919 March 23, 1992) was a Christian missionary, teacher, writer, and advocate of economic development in impoverished nations.Reidhead was born in a Minnesota farming community in 1919. When in his late teens, he committed himself to a life of Christian service.In 1945, Reidhead took an assignment with the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), surveying and analyzing indigenous languages in preparation for evangelistic and educational efforts near the Sudan-Ethiopia border. His proficiency in tribal languages was noted by his contemporaries. Reidhead’s experiences in Sudan deeply impacted the core values that would later guide his life.A spiritual crisis during this period—as he described two decades later in what is probably his best-known recorded teaching, Ten Shekels and a Shirt [1] left Reidhead with the conviction that much of evangelicalism had adopted utilitarian and humanistic philosophies contradictory to Biblical teaching. The end of all being, he came to believe, was not the happiness of man, but the glorification of God. This theme would recur throughout his later teaching.

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