Good leadership & Yes Men


A good leader is someone uncomfortable when surrounded by people who agree with everything they say. Conversely, as someone being led, you should not keep mum when a decision lacks merit and simply does not make sense. 

Let me digress a bit and share a life changing experience I had back when I was running my MSC program at the University of Surrey Guildford. A lecturer walked in and after the introductions, looked across the room and said “Hi guys. If you’re from Africa, Asia and the Middle-East, it’s ok to disagree with me” I’m sure I was not the only one pleasantly surprised. I was not used to that. Majority of my lecturers back home took a different approach You just had to know your place. And that is being the Yes-man. 

Many leaders are not comfortable with the idea of having a few guys push back when they share ideas or issue orders. They cannot bear the thought of having direct reports object to their ideas and proffer alternatives. It will have them seething. They call such people rabble rousers. And so, they react swiftly and clap their wings before they orchestrate a “rebellion.” That is an insecure leader, not a good leader. A good leader never assumes they know it all. 

When a leader’s preoccupation is squashing any form of rebellion, applying the divide and rule tactic, that is insecurity speaking out loud and clear. And that leader is not leading but buying time. Leaders must avoid their ego and insecurity getting in the way of good leadership. Unless they founded the business, the leader’s relevance is only a matter of time. And if they happen to be the founders, their best hands will soon walk away. For every lecturer that acted as an academic demigod back when we were in the University, we noticed every blunder they made, and they lost our respect in the process. The same applies to leadership. 

Like in real life scenarios, a good leader’s focus is on what delivers the results. People management, processes, competences and the like. And you alone cannot deliver on the goals. For example, employees at the frontlines may be privy to exclusive information, that the leader or leadership can only wish they had. 

What a good leader does, is encourage people to challenge him (not just for the fun of it) and bring great ideas to the table.  Yes-Men have their days, and that is a topic for another day, but it is not every day. Neither is it many days. 

A good leader is humble. He listens to subordinates closer to the issues at hand so he can grasp a better understanding of the real issues. He encourages them to bring along ideas. And he does all he can to support a great suggestions. 

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