Listening to the radio yesterday, I heard, as if for the first time, a commercial tag-line that I would guess I have heard at least 1,000 times before. A local mortgage company president concludes every one of his commercials with, “If you like what we do tell a friend. If not, tell me. I’ll fix it.”
While this “Bob the Builder” model of leadership might work in consumer markets, although I doubt he would change my mortgage payment because I don’t like the number, it is no way to run your life or any organization for that matter. Leadership means making decisions for the good of the whole. Sometimes those decisions are popular. Sometimes they aren’t.
While a leader must be mindful of every member of the organization, we must quickly get over the notion that we can make everyone happy all the time. In fact, if everyone is happy with the job you are doing, more than likely you are not leading but rather appeasing. Your are no longer leading the organization. They are.
My experience is that one cannot sustain that style of leadership for an extended period of time. At some point what you need to do to make person X happy will upset person Y. If you tell them each what they want to hear, you are lying to someone. The time will also come when loud, vocal, threatening group Z will want you to do something that you know is not in the best interest of the organization but would make them happy. At that moment you have to choose between your popularity and the organization you have been appointed/elected/hired to lead. This, by the way, is what I think is wrong with some (maybe most) of our elected “leaders” – but that is a different post.
When asked if he can fix it Bob the Builder, and apparently this mortgage company president, always respond, “Yes we can!” But to paraphrase Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park – just because a leader can doesn’t necessarily mean that leader should.