Our work culture was defined in another, that of FW Taylor’s Scientific Management and was strengthened in Ford’s assembly line system of production. Many practices and processes which were considered essential in that age, such as five-year strategic planning, training and development, measuring competencies, etc. are no longer valid with the demise of a stable work environment to be replaced by working in a fast-changing world with an uncertain future where agility and resilience count for more than fine education and a long experience.
The book Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall debunks these prevailing mindsets and faulty assumptions about leadership, called lies in this book. We have all seen the debris left by charismatic leaders, transformational leaders, transactional leaders and visionary leaders such as Jack Welch. General Electric shows how a long innings of an iconic leader can mask poor decisions taken on his watch which can haunt the company years after the leader has gone. He built a complex empire acquiring companies as diverse as a bank and a television studio. Till very recently, criticism of Welch would have been unthinkable but like Kodak, the company has been in a decline for over 25 years. The complexity coupled with a frigid culture robbed the organisation of its agility and flexibility.
"You can't find a leader anywhere who has all the characteristics we think they need to have," Goodall tells Inc. "What you find, in the real world, are people who can attract followers." The key to understanding leadership, then, is to examine followership. "If you want to be practical," he says, "the question to ask is, 'What draws us to somebody?' The leadership traits which were valued in an earlier age are impediments to employees’ and organisational growth.
Our uniqueness or individuality is not a flaw but a fundamental raw material on which the individual and organisations thrive. The book revolves around the individuality of employees, which companies overlook in the interest of simplicity. So, one lie is that there is a common culture to which everyone belongs. Another is employees’ potential against which everyone can be evaluated and so on. Some companies have already realised that annual appraisals are not working and have done away with. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
These nine lies found in the world of work are:
The book identifies nine such lies and dissects each one. It further explores the truth that each lie masks and how we can benefit from it. These lies cause friction and dissatisfaction inside the organisations and they keep leaders from achieving their true potential. By identifying and addressing these lies in the workplace our organisations and their leaders can be more effective.
Suhayl Abidi is a research advisor at the GOG-AMA Centre of International Trade, Ahmedabad.
First Published: IST