Get on the bus when a mandate driven leader’s behind the wheel (review)

Who do you want driving your organization?

A leader who won’t start boarding the bus until everyone’s had their say on where to go and reached consensus on what route to take?

Or a leader who’s already behind the wheel, revving the engine, telling everyone to buckle up and vowing to toss anyone who tries to slow, stop or steer the bus in a different direction?

Hitch your career to the second leader. It won’t be an easy or smooth ride. But there’s no guarantee the first leader will ever pull the bus away from the curb or go take your organization anywhere other than mediocrity or into a ditch.

“While consensus-based decision making is very popular and does tend to make people feel good, it is not necessarily the best approach,” says Scott Stawski, a senior executive with DXC Technology and author of The Power of Mandate.

“Too many senior leaders practice consensus management in a business environment that demands a different approach. Companies using harmony of decision making can be on a fast track to failure for the simple reason that consensus is not necessarily about what is best for the company. Nor is it about establishing and moving toward a vision that lifts everyone’s performance. It is about finding the outcome that is least objectionable to everyone involved. Comfortable organizations rarely change the world.”

Scott Stawski's The Power of Mandate

Mandate driven leadership can be your organization’s best strategy for world-changing disruption and strongest defense against feel-good group think.

Mandate driven leaders do a masterful job of continually communicating a clear and compelling vision for a better future. You may not agree with that vision but at least you’ll know what it is so you can make an informed decision about whether to get on or off the bus.

Mandate driven leaders drive to the outcome instead of following established processes. “The outcome is survival and mandate driven leaders often break what many believe to be the established rules of business processes to get there. The ride may be bumpy but if you are on the bus the destination is phenomenal.”

Mandate driven leaders also possess an unrelenting focus and determination to reach their ultimate destination. They won’t take no for an answer. They don’t accept excuses and they hold everyone accountable and to a higher standard of performance. Under their watch, organizations stand a far better chance of not only surviving but thriving.

Mandate driven leaders don’t care if you agree with them or like them. They’re not out to win popularity contests. They also know that crowds aren’t always wise.

“We need leaders who can push organizations in directions they may not want to go, in part because they don’t realize they need to,” says Stawski.

“These leaders have a vision, and they command the organization to take a certain course of action to achieve that vision. These visionary leaders have a belief, idea, strategy or tactic that is so compelling that they do not accept no for an answer. Through mandate, they drive the vision from concept to implementation. Through this leadership willpower, organizations are propelled toward the vision.”

So how do you become a mandate driven leader? Take responsibility for your continual leadership development, says Stawski. Establish a network of formal and informal mentors and start reading everything you can find about leadership and what’s on the horizon for your organization and industry.

“I’ve known and studied quite a few leaders over the course of my career and the single most common denominator seems to be a voracious thirst for knowledge. Not just about leadership per say, but about any and every topic that they could apply to the teams they are trying to lead.”

Despite profiling only billionaire white guys from the world of tech, Stawski makes a strong case for why we should hand the keys over to mandate driven leaders and rethink the reflexive need for consensus management.

This review first ran in the July 6 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Pick one – a pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss (review of The Mind of a Leader)

mindThis review first ran in the Feb. 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Mind of the Leader

By Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter

Harvard Business Review Press

$39

A pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss.

Which one would you choose?

Apparently, a third of us would pass on the bigger paycheque to instead wish our leaders well on their future endeavors.

That’s one of the key findings from research done by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacequeline Carter with the Potential Project.

They also report that only 13 per cent of the global workforce is engaged while 24 per cent is actively disengaged.

Yet in a McKinsey and Co. study, 77 per cent of leaders say they do a good job of engaging their people. That same study found that their people just aren’t feeling it, with 82 per cent saying their leaders are lousy at engagement. Basic human needs of finding meaning, purpose, connection and genuine happiness appear to be going unmet in too many workplaces.

So maybe the $46 billion spent annually on building better leaders needs to come with a money back guarantee.

If you’re a leader who wants a more engaged and productive workforce, Hougaard and Carter say it’s all in your head.

They recommend you focus on the three foundational and mutually reinforcing mental qualities of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion are universal languages that are understood by everyone. They are innate human qualities in which status and authority do not get in the way of true human connectedness.”

Mindfulness is about turning off our autopilot and intentionally managing our attention and thoughts. “You learn to hold your focus on what you choose.” Through focus and awareness, we develop better emotional resilience and lose our fight-or-flight instincts and our tendency to default to knee-jerk reactions.

Selflessness is a winning combination of humility, service to others and self-confidence. “With selflessness, trust increases because we have no secret agendas and followership strengthens because our selflessness sets free our people to be their best selves.” By comparison, a raging, unhealthy ego leaves you vulnerable to criticism, susceptible to manipulation, corrupts your behavior and values.

Compassion helps your people feel safe and connected. “When we as leaders value the happiness of our people, they feel appreciated. They feel respected. And this makes them feel truly connected and engaged. It’s no accident that organizations with more compassionate leaders have stronger connections between people, better collaboration, more trust, stronger commitment to the organization and lower turnover.”

Leaders who are mindful, selfless and compassionate can then lead by example and instill these foundational qualities in their people and across their organizations.

“Leading with mindfulness, selflessness and compassion makes you more human and less leader. It makes you more you and less your title. It peels off the layers of status that separate you from the people you lead,” say Hougaard and Carter.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion make you truly human and enable you to create a more people-centred culture where your people see themselves and one another as humans rather than headcounts.”

And instead of wanting you to get a pink slip, your employees will give you extra effort, respect and loyalty.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books since 1999.