We Reward Terror

by Ashok Grover
In order to create world-class organization, we employ several tools and instruments to identify and reward right attitude and behavior. At the same time knowingly and unknowingly, we also have been rewarding "Spiteful leadership". Live examples in this article reflect the same.
"Kumar, Come here!" shouted the Executive Director, while taking a round of the Foundry along with the Unit Head. As Kumar presented himself before the Big Boss, all heads had already turned towards him as he started getting the dressing down from the ED. The Unit Head whispered to the ED "Sir, shall we call him to your chamber and talk there." "Why?" roared the ED. The Unit Head mumbled, 'It just doesn't look nice on the floor.' and ED retorted, 'What do you mean by it doesn't look nice? I don't have to fight an election'.

And the Unit Head nodded in sheer helplessness, "Yes, Big Boss has no intention of contesting an election". But, wondered he, why do the people go around shouting to prove that they are the Bosses, and also having no intention of becoming a leader.

It is certainly not a rare scene, such leadership is a common place. And in majority of the cases, when you tell these Bosses that people consider them a terror, look at the glimmer in their eyes. It is taken as a huge compliment. Probably they do not realize the hard fact that even though all successful leaders are tough task masters, their subordinates love them; because they have learnt that "being tough does not mean being rough". Howsoever grim may be the mistakes made by their people, they know how to give right feedback in right manner and they take all the care to ensure that their people do not lose self-esteem. Loss of self-esteem leads to performance destruction. With loss of self esteem and performance, irrespective of the people who may come and go, sufferer is the organization.

In short term, terror can produce results - and that is why may be recommended as a temporary style in crisis situation. However, it can never be successful in long run. Many a times, by using this approach, some managers are able to give results and are able to make it to the top of corporate ladder. Alas! These results do not sustain because they affect and infect the culture of the organization. A recent study suggested that these leaders can induce several malaise for their subordinates, which include nightmares, insomnia, depression and exhaustion. The situation is bound to deteriorate in the long run. Unfortunately, the blame goes to the new incumbent who replaces these so called "effective leaders" and the so called effective leaders are quoted, marveled and their leadership style is venerated and even followed by their subordinates because they notice "the spiteful behavior" being rewarded.

The story is repeated and these people may succeed to tread on the higher ranks of the corporate but ultimately these are the people responsible for the destruction of the organization's culture and finally the organization itself.

The remedial measure for such issues is its detection in the rudimentary stage and upfront intervention by management in stake. The bosses above need to look beyond the short-term and make sure that the minimum required dosage of such treatments are used only during emergencies, when it is the question of survival. In the long run, organizations need other kind of building blocks, which bind the people together. These tough task masters do bother about the fire in the belly of their people. They do not bother whether they are going to fight election; but certainly they do ensure that their team members instead of fighting against each other or struggling with only apparently visible performance measures, fight together against all the odds to achieve organizational goals and do not build castles on the foundations of sand.

Ashok Grover, Founder CEO of Ashok Grover Consulting is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is also Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.