Off With Their Heads

There are good leaders and there are bad leaders. There are good managers and bad ones too. How do we characterize good from bad when it comes to leaders and mangers? This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately. I love teaching Management Theory. I love discussing the functions of management with students while they learn to plan, organize, lead and control.

In our classroom discussions we usually discuss the research of various universities in the recent past that deal with leadership. Usually we focus on the difference between autocratic and democratic managers. The assumption is that all managers fall on the continuum between these two leadership styles. Both styles can be effective in certain situations.

As I was pondering the differences between these two styles I thought about an experience a friend of mine just had. My friend was forced out of a job due to someone not liking them. The manager who was sitting in their ivory tower made a unilateral decision that my friend needed to go and made my friends life so miserable that they had no choice but to quit.

As my friend and I were discussing this I thought of the recent version of Alice in Wonderland, specifically the Queen of Hearts. I told my friend this is like an autocratic manager sitting in their office crying out at the top of their voice “off with their head.”

I had a boss one time that felt the best way to manage was to instill fear into the workplace. He used to say all you have to do is cut a couple of chicken’s heads off and the rest will fall in line. The only problem with the mentality is its short sightedness.

The term that comes to mind is social capital. The “off with their head” attitude reduces social capital. In other words, if good actions make deposits into the bank of social capital where all people are better off, then cutting heads off withdraws from the bank of social capital.
These managers that think in the short term, hurting people for the good of their own careers, are hurting the whole of commerce. In the short run these “off with their heads” managers think they are providing great returns to the shareholders, in the long run they are making withdrawals on future opportunities. They are hurting the future of their companies rather than helping.

And that is my thought for the day.


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