Looking up (at leaders) is a downer. It need not be.
We physically look up to our leaders because their box is drawn higher on the chart and because they sit in a higher office (in both meanings of the word office).
We morally look up to our leaders because… Well, maybe once upon a time we did. The buck never seems to stop anymore.
Here’s how to change it. At least at work, if not in the office (the other meaning of the word).
Lead with a view of the lead
I like my leaders to be on top of the organization pyramid.
Let me tell you why I prefer a pyramid hierarchy to some of these fancy modern designs, like the wagon-wheel with the customer at the center.
A pyramid structure clearly shows the hierarchy of power and status. And it shows the hierarchy of responsibility and accountability.
When it comes to the execution of plans and delivering on promises made to customers and stakeholders, then responsibility and accountability matter. And it matters that we all know where the buck really stops.
Which part of the pyramids in Egypt is visible from afar? Yes, the pointy bit at the top.
I think that many modern problems stem from the fact that many people at the top do not realize that we can see them clearly. And that it is very clear to us when they are not stopping the buck where it is supposed to stop.
Be less visible to trigger more visible success
The more successful you are at your job, the higher you will climb on the corporate ladder. The higher you climb, the bigger your carpet and the fatter your wallet. You know this already, which is why you stepped onto the ladder in the first place.
However, many climbers forget that the higher you climb, the more visible you become to those you stand on. Sorry, I mean those below you. No, I mean those you manage and lead.
Actually, you don’t become more visible. Your ego does. It stands out more and more. That’s the risk.
Here’s the paradox at the top of the pyramid:
- If you want to be successful, then your ego must be your driver. Because to be promoted, you must be visible and be seen to be successful.
- Yet, if you want ongoing success, then the higher you climb, the more invisible you must become by making visible those below you.
Remember, without two one is zero
Singer Joe Jackson wrote a song beginning with, “Won’t you be my number two? Me and number one are through.”
Romantically, this makes sense, but not in business. In business, the CEO is always number one, with or without a number two.
I once consulted to the top two people in a company. They were polar opposites. Supposedly, opposites attract. But in business, opposites are competitors. And yet, these two were successful because they understood that what made them different apart, made them great together.
If your number two is a yes-mouth, then you are obviously not competing (with each other). But the risk is that you won’t be competing successfully where it matters.
Your number two should complete you, not compliment you. Get someone who balances you with opposites and who will speak up against you when needed.
Without the right number two, you won’t be number one for long.
Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.
Here’s another reason why your number 2 matters.