Seven Reasons Smart Leaders Get Dumb
Power makes leaders dumb. The more power you gain the dumber you get.
There are at least seven dumbing effects of power.
- Reduces the complexity of your thinking. You over-simplify.
- Limits your ability to consider alternatives. You decide quickly and validate your decisions.
- Permits you to treat people like objects who get things done rather than human beings.
- Closes your ears. Powerful people minimize what others know.
- Decreases your interest in others. You matter more.
- Inspires preoccupation with self. The world revolves around you.
- Struggles to understand the perspective of others.
The most dangerous danger of dumb leadership:
Dumb leaders create dumb organizations.
Powerful leaders wrongly believe they have the answers. In reality, “80% of of an organization’s potential for improvement lies in front-line ideas.” (The Idea-Driven Organization)
Getting smart requires humility.
Humble leaders are smarter than arrogant.
Identify, promote, and hire humble people.
8 ways to spot humility:
- How do you talk about co-workers?
- How do co-workers talk about you?
- How do you support others?
- How do you celebrate the accomplishments of others?
- How much attention do you require?
- How much time do you spend talking about yourself?
- How much time do you spend calmly listening?
- How well do you tolerate working behind the scenes?
7 ways to develop humble organizations:
- Eliminate dress codes. Managers and leaders dress more like everyone else.
- Remove physical barriers that create inaccessibility.
- Limit bureaucracy and sign-offs.
- Locate managers and leaders closer to the front line.
- Develop transparency. Everyone knows how everyone is doing. Secrets protect inequity.
- Expect more execution and less talk. Talking without execution encourages arrogance.
- Look to the front-line for answers first.
This post is adapted from chapter 2 of the new book, “The Idea-Driven Organization,” by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder. (Recommended reading for leaders who want to empower their workforce and develop an idea-driven organization.)
How can leaders protect against the arrogance of power?
How can leaders develop humble organizations?
*Research by Galinsky, Gruenfeld, and Magee in, “From Power to Action.”
Now we’re talking Dan!!!!! Lol
Actually, now you are writing, me reading and agreeing!!!!!
Nothing new happens when we are mentally sitting on our laurels!!!
See why resensing the past or imagining the feelings of the future takes out of right now???
Got to be focusing in the present. Look ahead and figure out how to create what is not there yet!!!!!
Effective people do this, you can call them smart leaders if ya wanna, they are effective people.
To create more, duplicate, replicate one has to master the task first!!!
Then SHUT up!! If you Master Humility you know the first sign you di-unt???
I know my Ebonics are horrible!!!!
The first sign you missed Humility completely is when you think you got it and you go tell everybody!!! Lol.
So understand the epic journey, best way find the most humble person you ever met, ask them what they think, feel and do!!!
Dump your own inept misplaced arrogance, add their way!
Then become like them.
Others will see and feel you. We communicate much more than verbally although most people have no clue.
Just be Humility, keep your mouth shut then when someone is attracted to you, share!!
The point is to stop using the 2/3rds of the brain that runs things and maintains. Get to thinking through the frontal lobe. That is where one goes where no man has gone before instead of chasing their tails going in circles!!!
Great stuff Dan….bravo!!
Thanks Scott. My favorite line from your comment: “The first sign you missed Humility completely is when you think you got it and you go tell everybody!!!”
Well trial and error, trial and error Dan!!
First 20 times I tried sharing the epic level of Humilty I had attained, no one seemed in awe…..
Hated when that happened!!
When I learned to keep my mouth shut a completely different response I must say….. Hehe
Have a great one if you choose.
I like your ideas, good luck getting this through corporate America. They teach us “Business people should dress in business attire”. They say “there is a time and place for everything”.
Power can be confused with ego too, kind of like saying “do as I say don’t do as I do”. I like the humble side and just glide…
Thanks Tim. I had to chuckle when I read, “good luck getting this through corporate America.”
I’ll take you one step further, power elevates and expands ego. Show me someone who stays humble when they get power and I’ll show you a noble person.
Excellent stuff. Our job as leaders is to advance the organization’s mission, nothing else. An important part of that is having engaged people. That means hiring the right people, hiring as few as possible, training, encouraging the heart, repeating the mission incessantly, removing fear, modeling values. Directing and monitoring are important, but generally overrated. Charisma is less important than results.
Thanks Marc. The clarity of your second sentence is profound! Awesome.
Directing because less valuable in organizations where people are aligned and released to bring themselves to organizational challenges and opportunities.
Too many leaders are NOT listening and sits on their laurels thinking that they are always right. That’s really their downfall. Their arrogance and ego has got the better of them and sometimes ,may blind their senses!. Unless, the leaders themselves start by looking at themselves in the mirror and acknowledge that they do not know it all, it’s going to be pretty difficult. How do leaders develop humble organizations? I suggest that they first start humbling themselves. It takes a bigger person to be humble and acknowledge that the world does not revolve around him/her. Start joining your staffs and work as front-liners and behave more humane and caring, having meals and social functions together. No harm in that except that leaders feel that its below them! That’s sad because it is actually these people that make leaders who they are and put them there ! Action speaks louder than words!
I think the unfortunate part of all of these great recommendations is that leaders that have “power” but don’t know how to use it become blinded by it. That disables their ability to be self-aware. So the dumb leader can’t even use the 8 ways to spot humility because they are unable to objectively look in the mirror. You ask how leaders can protect against the arrogance of power. I answer with, a jarring wake-up call. It will most probably come from the real leaders of the organization: the natural ones from the front lines.
Thanks for the interesting read.
I love this! Break down the walls and grow!
At any level, the organization should be a place of safety.. when we sense ourselves (others) protecting, information, “turf”, or becoming defensive one to another its time to reset. Leaders need to recognize that and call it out. My observation is that many leaders stand as a referee (and seem to enjoy the role) rather than a statesman establishing/maintaining healthy relationships across the parties involved.
I watched “Wolf of Wall Street” last night . . . Talk about polar opposite sides of thought! I’m completely on your side! I would rather leave this world unsuccessful than be a “Wolf”!!
Wow. I am in complete agreement with your statements. However, I would take one of your points a bit further: “3.Permits you to treat people like objects who get things done rather than human beings.” Unfortunately, many managers are compensated or measured strictly by how much they can turn human beings into machines by reducing costs and increasing productivity. This exponentially increases the problems. You wouldn’t (shouldn’t) say to a kid: “just do your chores, and don’t cause me any problems or cost me anything.” Yet that is the exact mentality I’ve seen in the corporate world today. I guess because it is a “professional” environment and “we are adults”, the humanity of people doesn’t matter.
Pride comes before the fall. Pride in self is the start of toxic ego’s and the dismise of your value as a leader. However, recognition and pride in your team’s achievements will support and promote your team efforts and add value to your organization.
One of the symptom can be “I know it”. Leaders should overcome such symptoms. As you have mentioned that 80% of the solutions lies with front line employees. So, leaders should accept and believe in such reality. They should encourage and recognize their potential. Arrogance of power comes when leaders believe that they are superior than others. The moment they start thinking that they are human being first, then they can overcome from feeling and arrogance of power.
And by doing such practices, leaders can develop humble organizations. Humble behavior in the organization can be top-down. And leaders should initiate and influence others by engaging into communication, interaction with lower level of employees. They should break the silos of mindset.To do so, leaders should not have only open door policy but open mind practices. Organizations can have open door policy while keeping top management mind closed. So, we need openness and willingness to work in authentic manner.
Smart executives use their “personal power” not their position power. Jimmy Collins
Great and poignant summary! This should be posted every leader’s mirror so they read it each morning before work.
Transparency is the biggest one for me. It eliminates the formation of cliques.
Again I fall back on open and honest communication (I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here).
Being honest and open about their level of humility will protect leaders against the arrogance of power.
How can leaders protect against the arrogance of power? Not only by looking to the front-line for answers first but by participating in routine front-line activities. Performing a task can be much more of an experience than listening to how it is done.
This clearly explains My Boss. He never listens, never give himself time to think through problems. He is always rushing to make decisions, and when something goes bad, he looks for someone within the organization to blame. Last year I came up with an idea that would have increased the company’s sales but because of the kind of man he doesn’t take time for anyone’s else ideas except his, my idea was valued as crap, 3 months later one of our competitors used the same idea I had suggested and they are now making more sales than us.
Power when used the wrong way, can destroy, make you go broke, create enemies, give you stress, you loose trust in your employees. All this I have seen and learned in My Boss!! I’m glad I only have a week left and I resign.
Thank you for posting this. It was very insightful and encouraging.
Think you should have titled this post “Abuse of Power Makes Leaders Dumb”. As leaders we all have positional or legitimate power which gives us reward power and coercive power. Others, based upon thier skills, both soft and hard, have expert power. Leaders who are trusted and respected have what is called referent power. None of these are bad in of themselves and are neccessary at times and in certain circumstances. Abuse of say positional power, on the other hand, is destructive and ego driven.
Thanks Jody. Great suggestion on the title. I agree, power isn’t a bad think. Without power, nothing gets done.
True humility is a sign of strength, competence and a healthy state of mind. I embrace servant leadership more and more every day.
Humility is typically caught through mentorship. It is modeled and reinforced through leadership. Being quick to listen, slow to speak and simply giving the gift of “focus” enables a culture of humility in relationships and across any organization.
You may find my blog on Contrarian Salesrep of value.
Really enjoyed your blog Dan… !