I have been in numerous organizations...I have attended countless meetings...I have served under, with and for multiple bosses...I have had countless colleagues...and I am still amazed at the decisions people make, especially those who have been placed in leadership positions. Why is it that people act in certain ways and make decisions that not only harm individuals and the organization, but are just wrong? I have done my share of reading and studying about organizations, and I at least have a running idea on how decisions in organizations should be made. And then I watch others make decisions and act on behalf of the organization, and I can only shake my head and wonder, "what are they thinking?" My first inclination is to assume that if they knew better, they would act better. My second inclination is to think that maybe there is an alternative motive (often not good) to their decision making. And my third inclination is to wonder if they are just incompetent. The problem is that often times these are the smartest people in the room...they just have no clue how to manage and lead. Here are a few thoughts as to why we wonder about others (and why others wonder about us), and ask the question "what are they thinking?"
- They have risen to their level of incompetence (see The Peter Principle)
- They have not made the transition from their former position to that of leader
- They are unaware of their own shadow side
- They are stressed and revert back to their instinctual behavior
- They have never read deeply (or maybe at all) into the management and leadership literature
- They are self-absorbed
- They are more worried about their own position than that of others
- They believe that because they have a title they have all the answers
- They observed others making and being rewarded for similar types of decisions
- They use the wrong set of measurements and metrics
- They use the wrong lens through which to see and understand the organization they lead
- They still believe that what got us here will get us there
- They believe they are always right
Here's what I believe...if you are going to lead an organization, then the above items are non-negotiable to work on and get fixed. We ALL suffer from the above...we ALL have several of the items that haunt and plague us...we ALL struggle to get the above items "right" on a consistent basis...AND we ALL have to get better at the above items if we are to lead and not have people consistently say to themselves "what are they thinking?" I expect better from those who are called to lead...I expect leaders to be readers...I expect leaders to be learners...I expect leaders to find a good coach...I expect leaders to be listeners...I expect leaders to open themselves up to criticism...I expect leaders to be self-examiners...I expect leaders to leave their past jobs behind and embrace their new roles...I expect leaders to care more about the organization than they do themselves...I expect leaders to admit they are wrong...and I expect leaders to embrace the knowledge of the institution and its people when making decisions. And if they do that, I no longer have to wonder, "what are they thinking?" Instead I, and many others, will see them as geniuses and embrace their leadership, because they will be making much better decisions.