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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buying Into A Leader

“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

This is a quote from Walt Disney that was painted over the cast entrance to the tunnel at the Magic Kingdom (probably still there). I have found this statement to be very true. I've seen too many leaders think too much about themselves and their own capabilities. They think that they are the only ones who make things happen. The best leaders I've seen and worked for take the notion of this quote to heart, whether they're familiar with the specific quote or not.

I have seen leaders of organizations who had a vision of what they wanted to do, but went about trying to accomplish it seemingly by themselves. Too many times, leaders forget the basic crux of what this quote explains. They start believing their own press releases and hype, and start thinking that they're the only ones who can make things happen.

I've witnessed one leader who has a great passion for her vision, but has done an exceptionally poor job of selling that vision to her staff. Quite frankly, the vision statement, and sometimes the leader herself, have become a punchline within the organization. The main reason, in my opinion, is because the staff doesn't buy into her as a leader. And people will first buy into the leader and THEN buy into the vision. She hasn't done the basic things that good leaders do in order to get to know staff and gain their trust and respect.

She is leading an organization that is teetering on a divide. Within the next six months, I think it is either going to go one way and become a major force in its industry or it is going to fall the other way and completely implode. Unfortunately, my bet is on the latter. In the last three months, seven people have quit (five from one department), which equals 12% of the entire staff. There's been no acknowledgment of it and no desire to find out why. Don't get me wrong, everyone is expendable, but when numbers like that start a mass exodus from an organization, it's a sign of some major problems. A good leader will 1) find out why people are leaving, and 2) do something to correct the problem(s). Neither effort has been made.

My caution in telling this tale is for the following reason: when you start looking for jobs, really consider who the leaders are in that organization. Find out as much as you can about them, their leadership style, their vision. Use your network and ask a lot of questions. I remember hearing a conversation with a 30+ year Disney leader where another person asked him what he looked for in new assignments at Disney. He said that the first thing he always looks at is who his leader will be and what type of leader that person is. I have always remembered that and it has become a major criteria in my job searches as well. There are certain leaders I'd work for again no matter what company they'd joined. All it would take is a phone call from them asking me to come work for them. These are people I've bought into as leaders because I know and respect their leadership style. They've learned what it means to be a good leader. I have confidence that whatever vision they have for their organization will be sound.

In the next post, I'll go through some of the qualities that I think make a good leader, some of the qualities that the people whom I've bought into actually have.

1 comment:

Janae said...

Great post Michelle!! GREAT post!