Strategy Hacks #9: belief in Big Daddy


A shocking number of individuals and organizations have an irrational belief that others can solve problems for them. They act as if they prefer not to understand and show no inclination to personally work hard on challenges to be faced. Much easier to defer to someone promising to "make it all better".


Excuse #9: Big Daddy will take care of it
Organizations with this belief will explicitly seek charismatic leaders regardless of relevant KSAs, or lack of them. These alluring leaders, almost always men, present themselves as able to take care of whatever happens on the strength of personality alone. The simplicity of this promise is appealing across an astonishing range of individuals and organizations.


Organizations in thrall to Big Daddy have no need for strategy because their charismatic leader is believed to have all answers to all current and future challenges and be able to make any action direction fruitful. The predictability of this mistaken faith failing in the face of reality is so certain that I routinely book follow up calls with board members when these individuals are hired.


Diagnosis:
Organizations with this blight are easy to see. There will be one individual, most commonly in CEO or other senior management positions, referred to by everyone as central to all operations, all decisions and all directions. Everyone from the board to the receptionist will know this individual, at least superficially. When queried closely however, specific results produced by these leaders are hard to come by.


This type of leader will be outgoing, extroverted and energetic and not at all focused or even much interested in the details of organizational performance. They will have an extensive and professionally managed presence in the relevant media. This will increasingly include the social media but will also involve public exposure on the local, regional, national and international charity and social circuits and regular appearances in print social pages.


This type of leader will often have a mantra, a stock phrase, that is applied in all contexts and in response to all questions. Relevance doesn't matter. The sheer repetition produces catatonic support or at least cessation of professional independent thought. Do you recognize these: "I'm a bit of a P.T. Barnum. I make stars out of everyone. Believe me. Believe me." "If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near." "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."


Treatment:
The root of this problem is the hiring process that allowed attitude and charisma to supersede analysis of relevant KSAs. This is often a result of an overconfidence bias: being too confident of our opinions and thus allowing greater risk than is necessary or wise.
Review the hiring process and criteria for the last dozen senior hires. If KSAs are not specified or are ignored, the hiring process needs redevelopment and more transparency.

Look at the turnover pattern in senior posts over the past decade. Is there a pattern of charismatic leaders leaving just before negative results are booked? What happened next? If yet another charismatic leader was chosen, then the board and senior managers need reeducation.

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