With so much research about how to create great places to work, why is it that 70% of US employees would leave their jobs if given the chance? It turns out that we have a serious leadership deficit. More than 1/2 of senior managers want to quit their jobs. In this case the trickle down effect has turned into an avalanche.
Much of our unhappiness stems from the Because I Said So approach, the default setting for a significant number of “leaders.” These managers use their authority to gain compliance rather than treating employees in a manner they’d prefer. Chances are this approach didn’t work for your parents when you were two. Because I Said So doesn’t work any better for employers when you are 42. Unfortunately, the tendency to want to take control starts much earlier than you’d think.
Submit… or Else
According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, boys establish a pecking order very in early in life. Boys with high status have learned to give orders by the time they enter grade school. Lower status boys obey or get bullied for their insubordination. A rigid hierarchy quickly forms in male groups. Verbal negotiation occurs only as boys with higher status vie for the independence that comes with dominance.
“The beatings will continue
until morale improves.”
Girls also tend to develop hierarchies in grade school, although they do it in a completely different manner. Girls will shun those who try to give orders. They favor collaboration and status comes from inclusion in the right cliques.
We have dragged these styles into the office so perhaps it’s not so surprising that the desire to command still prevails in male dominated corporate America. Only 15 women hold the CEO title in the Fortune 500. It would be interesting to know if these women choose to control or collaborate.
A controlling management style is damaging because it:
- Relies on fear and compliance, which demotivate employees and produces marginal results
- Limits potential to the manager’s strengths and amplifies weaknesses
- Contradicts the economic and social realities of the information age
The authoritarian style may have felt comfortable in the factories of the industrial era. It was, after all, a new way of working and people often came from homes where Dad ruled the roost. But times have changed. We have a diverse, multi-generational workforce that includes women and a vast array of ethnicities. Today’s workforce seeks autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Follow the Leader
Back to the research. Marcus Buckingham has dedicated his career to uncovering the secrets of productive workplaces. His well documented research on strengths-based leadership, when applied, works brilliantly. So why, then, has this methodology not gained a stronger foothold?
Reading a book or learning theory gives most people the right vocabulary. Application is another thing. We learn more from modeling than from reading. I think that’s why some managers use terminology like ‘empowerment’ while ignoring the talents and contributions of their staff. If you want to change your culture, then change the way you lead your people. You can start by getting a mentor that uses the approach you’d like to adopt. Of course, you can also model by rejecting the behaviors of people for whom you don’t like to work.
The links between giving orders, gaining and maintaining status, and ego develop very early in a male leader’s life. But the desire to control is not limited to boys. I’ve also known a lot of bossy women. We’ll take a look at the personality types that like power and control over the next few weeks. Until then, we’ll weave a tale of micromanagement.
Originally published by PerformanceArchitect.com on June 4, 2012. All rights reserved.