R. Raghavendra Ravi
A leader should look a little foolish.
Stunning thought? Or stupid idea?
“My boss is sharp. He does not miss a thing. Even though we go well prepared to meet him, he tears apart our ideas! I do not know how to handle him.”
How often do we hear such refrain?
Often in my consulting practice, I come across this animal. The Intelligent Boss is typically a fast-rising executive or owner-manager (I will not include she” here since I find women bosses better in this respect). If the owner-manager happens to be a self-made man, he suffers from a severe form of this syndrome.
These intelligent bosses are often heard making such comments: “I do not suffer fools” or “I do not tolerate nonsense.” I have nothing against no-nonsense managerial conduct. But abrasive conduct that discourages people from discussing their views is “unintelligent” to say the least.
Today, it is not possible to manage an organisation with a single dominant brain — we need several perspectives and views which need to be integrated to get a world view. The intelligent boss syndrome prevents the sharing of views and information. People dread a meeting with such a superior and keep the interaction as short as possible.
The net result – the boss gets very little information. Left to discover the bad news himself, he often wonders why he has to discover the problems himself!
Since there is minimal exchange of ideas with such a boss, there is little chance of such an organisation growing and developing. Often, such managers and owner-managers tell me: “It is easier for me to do things myself than teach my people.” Not surprisingly, they keep “doing” all their life despite hiring a lot of people to work for them! Apple polishers soon appear to reinforce the boss’s view that his subordinates are indeed fools while he (boss) is sharp.
So, we have a “leader” who believes he is too intelligent for his people! Constantly critical, his people are relieved when he says nothing! He is out to prove that the whole organisation is a collection of parasites who feed on him and his efforts.
I have received calls from several potential clients with the following brief: “We have built this company with great difficulty. We have a no-nonsense culture here. There is no politics in our company. Yet we are not able to grow. We have a huge problem with our people. Can you correct it?”
A couple of such assignments have helped me learn the truth. Such bosses are generally rough with their subordinates in front of outsiders. Even if there is improvement in the organisation, they will never accept it. It is a no-win game and one is left feeling that they do not want to solve the problem!
So what are we saying? Check if any of the following apply to you:
You feel that you do not have good people. You believe they only join large companies.
You do not like meeting your people, who you see as survivors and parasites.
You have not received a single idea from your people for the past six months.
You are surrounded by servile, ‘yes’ men.
People in your company / organisation often tell you that you are brilliant and they cannot keep pace with you.
None of your people have sought a job for an acquaintance in your organisation.
You are not proud to introduceyour people to a business associate or friends.
If any of these are true, watch out. You may be suffering Intelligent Boss syndrome.
Some sobering thoughts and questions:
Do you think that the world’s best corporations such as GE, Intel, IBM, Tata Steel, etc., are full of brilliant people? Or, most of the people there would be ordinary with a few brilliant people here and there?
Don’t you think that because of your position you are privy to some information that others will not know and may appear unintelligent?
Don’t you think that somebody who works on something daily would know more about it than you?
Don’t you feel that the ‘yes’ men around you are actually fooling you?
Don’t you think that there are other businessmen/ managers who though not half as ‘intelligent’ are making twice your progress?
Gurus like Joseph Juran have said that “80 per cent of the problems are at the top”. Do you have a suspicion that he was right?
These questions lead us to the solution. Cast away your halo. Use the collective brain power you have hired. Each day, see how you can make your people think of progress and collaborate with you.
In the process, some of your people may speak up when they feel that you have changed. You may find that people do not fear you as much, but genuinely respect you. It is a great feeling to be able to make such a change.
Now read the first sentence: “A leader should look a little foolish.” — It might make some sense. It did to me!
(The writer is a management consultant.)
6 months ago