Are You Guilty of this Great Executive Excuse?

Checking progress with a client, I was told there was none.Human resources officer choose employee standing out of the crowd. Select team leader concept. Gender discrimination in employees selection.

The leader in charge had tossed the question to his staff, received little reaction, and so they all agreed to send an email to a wider audience. Guess what happened. Nothing. There was no response there either.

The issue involved multiple complaints about unclear roles and responsibilities between two groups. The question was simple: Where is the confusion?

When I asked why they hadn’t just taken ten minutes to generate a list of specific circumstances that result in confusion, the response was, “That’s not his style.”

Not his style? Excuse me????? What has style got to do with it? Style is irrelevant. “Leadership style” is a worthless concept. Effectiveness is what counts.

Nonetheless, what I heard next was more excuses masquerading as “style.”

“He doesn’t like to be forceful.”

“Let’s take 10 minutes and generate a list of circumstances.” And, “If we can’t come up with any, let’s stop complaining.”  Is that forceful? I’d call it clear and specific – about both the desired outcome and the method for getting there. If you can’t articulate what you need, why you need it, and propose a good way to get it, you don’t have the clarity to be a leader.

“He doesn’t want to sway the group by voicing his own thoughts first.”

Leaders speak up. They start the ball rolling when others won’t. They don’t have to dominate. They don’t have to insist on their perspective. But they aren’t afraid to toss out an opinion, example, or strawman for others to take shots at. If you can’t open the conversation effectively, you aren’t a leader. If you are shackled by fear, you aren’t a leader. If your team won’t open up, you aren’t a leader. If you are talking about something of no importance, you aren’t a leader. If your team has no answers, you aren’t a leader. This isn’t about style. That’s just an excuse.

“He wants the broadest possible input.”

So he can’t make any progress until some far flung individual speaks up? He can’t identify those most involved? Doesn’t know who has the most to gain or lose? He can’t do anything without involving absolutely everyone? This isn’t about style. Hoping someone else will come forward is not leading.

This particular example may seem trivial, but examples almost always look trivial once I strip away the clutter and expose what’s really going on. But check out the three excuses above. How often do you hear these?

From my work with many leadership teams, excuses cloaked as “style” are all too familiar. Style is irrelevant. If leaders can’t get clear about what they want and how they can get it quickly and effectively, they aren’t leaders.

Want help stripping away the excuses and making your team more effective? Let’s talk: 800-527-0087.

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