Command and Control Leadership Is Alive and Well

Boss

Here’s a skill-testing question:

Do you like being controlled by your boss? Not having any input into decisions, being told what to do and being kept in the dark, like some form of exotic mushroom?

I figured you don’t. You’re a human being with unique needs, a desire to contribute to your organization’s goals and have an insatiable appetite to be respected.

So what the heck’s wrong with organizations? Why do only a small percentage of them really get it when it comes to leading people AND bringing out the leader in each of us?

It’s not rocket science, but it sure seems like it is for many organizations.

So what’s driving this weird behavior, considering we live in what’s now been labeled a globalized economy, where it’s a street-fight for market share and where engaging employees has become a major challenge?

That’s precisely the point: North American companies are taking on new competitors which are very hungry to succeed and which intend to create wealth for their citizens. Technology is enabling companies to outsource and offshore their work to distant places around the globe. The labor market is no longer the U.S. or Canada when it comes to supposedly national companies but rather the world.

Here’s a tip: transnational companies could give a hoot about America, Canada or Great Britain. They don’t care if these countries’ middle classes are getting hammered and their disposable incomes drying up. Why? Because newly industrialized economies such as China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, etc. are creating collectively a huge middle class. The industrialized West no longer matters as much as in the past.

Governments, too, are competing with one another to support their economies and the creation of new industries and jobs. Plus, many Western governments are in fiscal messes, attempting to address looming unfunded public service pension liabilities and huge healthcare costs.

And don’t forget we’re still stuck in the entrails of the recent Great Recession and the financial meltdown. The U-shaped economic recovery never materialized (in contrast to the traditional V-shape), leaving us in a wobbly (how about pathetic) L-shaped growth with feeble lift-off?

To make employers that much more prone to stepping on workers and to disregarding employee engagement, we’re now facing a five inter-generational workforce, from Gen Z (just entering the labor market) to Gen Y (up to age 32) to Gen X (33-45) to Baby Boomers (46-66) to the Silent Generation (67-80). Yep, older folks are finding it increasingly necessary to stay in the workforce for both economic and personal reasons.

Each of these generations brings its own set of values and expectations to the table. For more information on the inter-generational challenges facing organizations and employees, check out my e-book Leadership and the Inter-Generational Divide.

The heyday of the nineties are over, where corporate learning initiatives exploded and new technology companies were growing like mushrooms. Globalization, in conjunction with the lingering effects of the Great Recession, has sparked a race to the bottom when it comes to leading people. The fixation on short-term corporate financial performance does not give an optimistic picture of the future in North America. And not just in the sense of how people are treated in organizations but also the negative impact this will have on creativity, innovation and productivity.

Stepping on people because of the perception, and indeed realities, of a virtual workforce where people can work from anywhere around the globe, combined with a weak economic recovery, will eventually slam Canada’s and America’s economies into a brick wall. Newly industrialized countries will leave us in the dust.

Moreover, if people are unable to generate the needed incomes to sustain national aggregate demand (driven heavily by consumer spending), then national wealth will fall along with employment

What goes around, comes around.

What will it take to break what seems to be an embedded corporate mindset of the lowest common denominator when it comes to people?

Our collective future, in Canada and the United States, depends strongly on effective corporate leadership, where people are engaged actively in the workplace, where the conditions foster self-empowerment for people to be creative and innovative, and where peoples’ wellbeing is nurtured and valued.

Take a moment to share your thoughts.



Executives are constrained not by resources but by their imagination.

– C.K. Prahalad

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