New Zealand has talent droughts in many areas, with competent senior managers being no exception. Some analysts bemoan a lack of good role models, which is true but I think that this problem has deeper roots than that.
I reckon that many senior managers are psychopaths, lacking empathy and remorse, and sometimes displaying disinhibited or bold behaviour, often not in a constructive manner. They are also extremely task focused, attributes which hasten their rise in organisations, particularly if they “get results”. They can also be bullies, a skill which is sadly rewarded too often. They become role models for other managers because they succeed and are rewarded for that.
I believe that an organisation’s culture is vastly more important than its “strategies”. Strategies are often a measure of what I call “tick box” compliance, adding little value to an organisation’s overall performance once they have been approved. If a strategy has any meaningful currency, it’s largely because it is owned by a manager who has a passion for it. Take that manager away and see how long the strategy lasts. It’s nigh on impossible for a senior manager to leave a legacy to a role they’ve moved on from, irrespective of how good a job they delivered.
Business management guru Peter Drucker explains this phenomenon more eloquently than I can. He says that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I suspect that a psychopathic CEO has no idea what Mr Drucker is talking about. If they think that culture is important to their organisation’s success, they’ll hire consultants to write them a Culture Strategy. They’ll probably restructure the organisation too, something that seems to be compulsory for all CEOs to deliver at least once during their tenure.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. Great organisations are usually those that empower their staff and encourage them to take risks, celebrate success and learn from mistakes. This helps grow a culture where staff have a clear focus on their clients and customers and a desire to do things better for them by constantly innovating and providing outstanding goods and services. This is a process of evolution, not revolution, something of an anathema to a psychopath.
The best boss I ever had was one who didn’t expect me to do things the way that he did, never looked to blame me for failures, helped guide me to find ways to put things right and do them better, got excited by my successes, listened with interest to my ideas, asked probing questions to flesh those out and find their weaknesses, and had a clear focus on what business success involved. It was OK to laugh at his stuff ups, few that those were. How he treated me was no different to how he treated others who worked for him. That boss was my Dad. I wish I was as good a boss as he was.