It’s about time, then, that I flipped the argument over then to consider the dangers of an overly autocratic approach.
Leaders who go it alone run a massive risk. The risk is that any gaps in their expertise or experience or any flaws in the personality intrude unhelpfully on the decision making process. Brilliant and compelling leaders can falter as they rally the troops marvelously to less than robust strategic plans.
Even the most expert of leaders therefore need what I will call a ‘leadership team’. This should comprise senior people who can fill in any gaps in the leader’s style and abilities.
Some strong-minded and strong-willed leaders might throw their hands up in horror at this, so I feel obliged to provide a very serious history lesson.
Who was Britain’s Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) during the Second World War? Winston Churchill? No… the CIGS was Alan Brooke (later, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke), foremost military advisor to Winston Churchill who was, of course, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
Brooke was a counterweight to Churchill, whom he described as a ‘genius mixed with an astonishing lack of vision… quite the most difficult man to work with I have ever struck.’ He was one of the few to stand up to the formidable Prime Minister, one without whom the outcome of the war would have been quite different. Churchill acknowledged Brooke’s ability to resist him, once saying ‘When I thump the table and push my face towards him what does he do? Thumps the table harder and glares back at me.’
There are lots of strong leaders out there. I say to you that your strength could also be your company’s weakness. Make sure that your self-knowledge includes recognition of your fallibilities and there’s a good counterweight team around you—including those prepared to thump the table back!
Tags: alan brooke autocratic approach business direction chief of the imperial general staff cigs counterweight democratic approach gaps genius history lesson leadership team military advisor minister of defense prime minister second world war self knowledge strategic plans vision winston churchill