Back to Workplace Leadership

As a Leader, What is Your Priority?

The question may be asked, "Why do people want to be leaders? What is their priority? What personal benefit does one seek as a leader?"

Priorities:

  1. to control others.
  2. for monetary gain or cash flow.
  3. to get the job done.

All three cannot have the same priority because they are conflictive and each has different personal goals and rewards. A leader base decisions on a single priority, which may be conscious or unconscious. This priority controls his leadership style and efficiency.

The assigned job of a leader is to get the job done. If the leader's personal priority and satisfaction is based on getting the job done, then his decisions will be based on that priority. The result is a super efficient leader. But, if leaders' personal priority is control or money, then decisions will be based on that priority that will interfere with getting the job done. I'll explain.

A leader seeking control wants everyone to know he is the boss and wants subordinates to depend on him for decisions. This gives a feeling of superiority, power, control and a feeling of job security, the feeling that the organization cannot get along without me. The problem is, this is breading grounds for minor problems that, in time, explode into uncontrollable problems. Control leaders want to deal with high visibility problems only; they don't want to be bothered with minor problems and will not give authority for others to deal with them. By giving authority, he loses control. Ignoring minor problems will, someday, give leaders many major problems to solve. This will enhance their status as a problem solver.

A leader seeking monetary gain or controlling cash flow is a barrier to getting the job done, because all decisions are based on money. When money controls decisions, leadership resist supplying subordinates the resources needed to get the job done efficiently. These people appear to be extremely busy, but most of their time is spent searching for ways to get the job done with available resources. This may appear to reduce cost, but down the road, cost explodes out of control. Leaders' seeking monetary gain at the expense of subordinates reduces morale, increases overhead cost, and drives away customers.

A leader that is focused on getting the job done has authority to acquire the resources he needs and is willing to pass on responsibility to his subordinates with the authority to acquire needed resources. (Empowerment) Minor problems can be solved by the people who are first affected by them. Up front cost may be high, but this is the stage where project cost can be controlled.

The learning factor: Every new employee comes into an organization eager to learn and contribute his skills to the team. Under empowerment leadership, this desire grows, under control leadership it dies. Employees that make decisions learn, they are challenged, they brag about the decision they made. This bragging is educating others, passing on knowledge and everyone learns. Employees that only follow orders do not learn, do not brag, do not pass on knowledge. They reject change because this means more one-way orders from the boss.

Employee turnover factor: Under empowerment leadership, people who have the ability to make decisions stay, people who only want to follow orders leave. Under control, people who have the ability to make decision leave, people who only follow orders stay. The leadership style controls efficiency by the type of people who remain with the organization.

The motivation factor: People who make decision search for efficient ways to complete tasks. Trial and error and finding a way is highly motivating. For people who only follow orders, their motivation is quitting time and payday.

Summary: A leader's priority will determine the efficiency of his subordinates.

Additional notes:

Where get-the-job-done has priority, cost is up front and controllable. Where cost has priority, real cost is uncontrollable, because the project has to deal with a pile of problems that are caused by cost control.

An example: A worker is assigned to drill a hole using an electric hand drill that is plugged into an extension cord with a loose fitting outlet. As the worker is drilling, the plug keeps falling out and he has to stop what he is doing and spend time getting the drill to work again. It would cost $10 to repair or replace the cord and the worker could stay focused on the job. Lets use this illustration to compare two work environments where cost has priority versus get-the-job-done has priority.

1. Where cost control has priority... All decisions are based on cost. The worker has been struggling with the extension cord for months and is aware of company policy not to replace anything that is not totally broken. For the last year, this minor problem cost the company $1,000 in lost production time. Where cost has priority and workers have limited authority, workers and/or supervisors adjust to minor problems, they are not going up the chain of command to complain about a defective extension cord. It will be added to the list of minor problems, where no action is taken, that allows lost production time to pile up. There is no way to control cost on a stack of elementary problems that no one is willing to deal with.

2. Where get-the-job-done has priority... All decisions are based on getting the job done. The worker with the defective extension cord can order it discarded and get a new one from the tool room. The person affected by the problem has authority to take action to correct it. It does not have to go through a chain of command. Minor problems are handled NOW, and they DO NOT pile up. Getting the job done has priority and is automatic cost control.

The above example may be simple, but what kind of problems are workers and supervisors allowed to correct without going through chain of command. What kind of problems requires management to be called in. With command-and-control leadership, workers and sometime supervisors are not allowed to take action on any problem, no matter how elementary, without approval. In this environment, the only problems addressed are major; this is why efficiency is in the basement. This is why companies have to pay low wages; they have to pay for a growing list of unrecognized list of problems.

The defective extension cord, in the above example is not going to affect anyone in management, but they are going to pay for lost production time.
Unrecognized elementary problems cost money.

Once committed to a project, base decisions on getting the job done, cost control is automatic.

With worker responsibility leadership, the goal is to get the job done, not maintain control.

Back to Workplace Leadership