This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades
, who retired after having run several companies. He reluctantly leaves his sail boat to help me with strategy. After convincing him to write here once, I am now hoping he becomes a regular contributor.
Wasted Authority – A Review
Some time ago, I wrote about poor leadership resulting from Wasted Authority. In that post, I described wasted authority as a result of weak leadership that exhibits one or more of the following traits:
- Indecisiveness when it is clear that a decision should be made;
- Failure to take action when cultural expectations are violated or associates misbehave;
- Inability to provide timely feedback to teach individuals and the organization;
- Failure to frame an issue, articulate priorities and delegate to others;
- Ignoring customer issues that the organization simply takes for granted;
- Failure to address large, well-known issues openly and directly.
These traits result in an environment where:
- Decisions are delayed by over-analyzing or waiting for consensus to emerge;
- Poor behavior is overlooked; exceptional efforts and good performance are unrecognized;
- Meeting topics wander off the agenda into excruciating detail;
- Customers issues are ignored or met with half measures;
- Important, uncomfortable topics are not openly discussed.
Working in an environment with wasted authority is very frustrating, wastes the time and talent of the organization and drains the energy of the organization.
What if You Are Not The Leader?
If you are a leader and recognize your behavior in any of these traits, it is time to adjust your style to be more decisive, open, focused and action-oriented. There is a lot a leader can easily do to stop his/her own wasted authority behavior.
But what if you are not the leader and are subjected to wasted authority by one or more of the leaders of your organization? What can you do to help change the environment? How can you lead when you are not the one who should? Even though you are not the one in charge, there are several actions you and others can take to improve specific situations and change the environment. Consider the following actions to overcome wasted authority.
Agree on the Alternatives
When confronted with indecisiveness from the leader, start by making sure everyone agrees to options or alternatives for the decision. For example, say, “Can we simply list the alternatives for this decision?” and then start the list – write it down on a flip chart or whiteboard for the leader or group. You should make the list of alternatives as short as possible, ideally just 2 or 3, and prioritize them.
Define What is Needed and Schedule Closure
The next step is to ask, “If we cannot choose one of these options, what additional information do we need to decide?” List what is required. Then determine who is responsible to get the information. Agree who is going to do what and make assignments. Finally, ask when the group can reconvene to review the structured options and make a decision.
Many times with this approach, a group will be able to make a decision at the time. But if not, this process will structure the alternatives, establish concrete actions and decide when to decide! Another term I like to use is “scheduled closure.”
Orchestrate Support of Others
If you know ahead of time that there will be a tendency to delay a decision, then meet with others who will attend the meeting to structure alternatives before the meeting. If an indecisive leader sees several people on the same page, it will help make the decision.
Develop an Offline Decision
Alternatively, once a list of options for the decision is created, see if a smaller group of individuals can be assigned to return with a decision or recommendation. Indecisive leaders sometimes will let others decide if options are clear and several agree.
Ignored Performance – Good and Bad
When a leader does not recognize good employee performance or ignores poor performance or behavior, the wrong culture is set for the entire organization by lack of action. The attitude spreads rapidly.
If you are not the leader, what can you do?