Here’s the Challenge with Leadership in the Gulf -William Spindloe






Another thought provoking article from contributor Bill Spindloe. This was a hot topic on a course I was attending last week!

Challenge is one of those words that has crept into the language more and more, and I’m all for it. There was at one time an overuse of the word, ‘problem’, and it did and does have negative connotations. Sometimes, however, you simply have to use the word when something really is a problem, and the ‘problem’ here is this: Management and Leadership succession planning in this part of the world is largely ill conceived or not thought out at all. There is a rush to fill supervisory, management or leadership roles with people, who although capable, could really be helped by having a little more coaching, mentoring, training or experience, or when there has been some recognition that planning for future generations of management and leadership is required we often leave it to people who should definitely not be involved in the decision making process at all.

This rush to promote too quickly is not, i might add a criticism of the Nationalization policy, although I do know that the pressures to promote can and do cause issues. This is a more generally linked to the Peter Principal. The Peter Principle is a humorous but largely accurate proposition that states that the members of an organization, where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. It was formulated by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle.

A common example of this that I have seen a number of times here is in sales. A company has an open position for a Sales Manager and they decide that one such member of the sales team has consistent sales figures and has been with the company for a few years, and should perhaps be given the chance to be that Sales Manager, and so he is promoted. Six months into the job, his numbers are down, and the rest of the sales team don’t seem to be performing very well either. Suddenly the once previously reliable, successful, sales guy’s abilities are called into question. Two things then happen. Either he leaves as the heat on him increases or the company decides to move him on. What happened in those six months that saw his performance drop? Well Managerial ability does not happen through osmosis. Just because you might be a good sales person, doesn’t mean you can all of a sudden manage other people to be the same.

The consequences, I’m sure are not lost on you. You just lost a perfectly good sales guy and messed up and demotivated your sales team and all because you wanted to reward good performance. Admirable but misguided. Definitely a candidate for the phrase ‘No good deed goes unpunished’.

The second part to this is that often those who are making the decisions on who should be the next supervisor/manager/leader aren’t entirely confident or competent themselves. The last thing they want is to position someone with real verve or talent underneath them, who may, in the future, make them look bad. So what you get all the way down the chain of command is a series of ever decreasing levels of talent and ability that is now leading, managing and supervising your employees. The consequences of which are of course debilitating for the growth of any organization.

So here are a couple of things to think about. Firstly, don’t feel the need to promote people because they happen to be dedicated and excel in their current role. If you need to reward, give a pay rise or a bonus. Do not look to promote unless they show the potential to take on a role of more responsibility, and if they do, support them with training and coaching to ready them in advance. Don’t start the coaching after they have started to fail.

Second, we need to create managers and leaders who have no fears about their achievements eventually being eclipsed by those whom they promote. Anyone in a senior role who fears being challenged is simply in the wrong job. It may be a cultural aspect of leadership in this part of the world, but it is not a sign of weakness to collaborate and seek solutions with your direct reports, in fact the opposite is true.

“Equal opportunity means everyone will have a fair chance at being incompetent” – Laurence J Peter.

– William Spindloe