Eisenhower on Leadership, Sounds like a Lean Thinker to Me
You might think that “command and control” leadership styles are a thing of the past. But, old habits die slowly and many leaders today still seem to have a mental model that longs for a workforce that would “just do what they're told.”
Individuals get blamed, sadly, when things go wrong. We hear comments like “if people would just do their jobs” instead of “what can we do to improve the system so that it's easier for our employees to succeed?”
“Command control” is often considered a military style of leadership, but that's not necessarily the case anymore if you read books like Gen. Stanley McChrystal's excellent book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. General McChrystal realized that, in an increasingly uncertain world, it's important to have engaged people who can think instead of just following orders.
Bad Jobs and Bad Management
I recently saw an article about what sounds like a very uncaring, command-and-control leadership style at Facebook (or within a staffing company that Facebook farms jobs out to): “The Worst Job in Technology: Staring at Human Depravity to Keep It Off Facebook.”
It sounds like this is a challenging, if not traumatizing job. You'd like to think that managers would be aware of that and that they'd be empathetic. It sounds like the managers care more about productivity numbers than the well being of their employees. Facebook requires that counseling be made available and the company says the right things, but does that translate into daily practice?
“[Mr. Tafari, the employee] rarely had time to process what he was seeing because managers remotely monitored the productivity of moderators. If the managers noticed a few minutes of inactivity, they would ping him on workplace messaging tool Slack to ask why he wasn't working, says Mr. Tafari.”
“You're not busy… do something!” That's not really a form of highly-skilled management. That's work that's likely to be done by A.I. in the near future?
What happens when the answer, from employees like Tafari is, “Well, I was really devastated by what I just saw and I needed to take a minute.”
There are also allegations against Amazon (and their delivery contractor companies) in England that say drivers are under such strict and unreasonable productivity targets that they don't get to have any proper breaks and that they're sometimes resorting to urinating in bottles in their vehicle.
How often do we hear nurses and other healthcare providers complain about not having time to eat lunch or having a proper break? I hear about this way too often.
Many of these “bad jobs” situations result from distant managers who are in “the gemba” or the real workplace. They often can't relate to the experiences and the reality of their workers. The managers have targets (often handed to them by higher up leaders) and it doesn't take much skill to browbeat people.
Eisenhower on Leadership
Going back further in time, to a former U.S. president and one of our greatest generals, Dwight D. Eisenhower said the following (as I blogged about here in 2006):
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it's usually called ‘assault' — not ‘leadership.'
I'll tell you what leadership is. It's:
It's long, slow, tough work. That's the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in, or will practice.”
“Any damn fool” can say “get back to work.” Real leadership is more difficult… and more rare. Hopefully things will get better.
What Eisenhower describes seems “like Lean” to me.