Monday, March 6, 2023

Too Often, Power Means the Power to Do Stupid Things

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Henry 1V, Part 2

The past decade, I’ve been privileged to coach many senior executives. In my experience, most are caring, thoughtful and capable.

They understand and accept the burdens the come with the ‘crown’. They know they have the ability to foster opportunity, commitment and growth – or blight, stagnation and misery.

The very best senior executives accept that their job is to 1) get results, 2) create capability and 3) reinforce values. They understand that you achieve 1, by doing 2 and 3.

And 2 and 3 entail practicing, teaching and reinforcing fundamentals standards – standards of work, management and ethics or behavior.

A deep bow to these splendid leaders – long may you run!

But there another type of leader – shallow, selfish, and weak. Such leaders reject the responsibilities described above. They use their power to sidestep the fundamentals.

And so, they do stupid things. Why? Because they can, I suppose. “Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph!” they declare, “Blah-blah-blah!”

Team members are sickened, capable leaders, managers & specialists polish their resumes, and the organization rots. (Absent strong competition, e.g. a monopoly or oligopoly, this can go on for years.)

Eventually, though, the house collapses and the community is left to pick up the pieces. A pox upon such leaders!

A few decades ago, an elderly Japanese described for me a tidal wave that was engulfing more and more industries. The tidal wave expressed a fundamental shift of power – from organizations, to customers.

Price, would be fixed or falling, he told me, and the customer would expect more and more value, and be less and less tolerant of violations of safety, environment or simple decency.

I’ve seen & experienced the tidal wave rolling through industries like automotive, consumer goods, electronics, aviation and the process industries. (In my view, such industries have never been better, and we, the customers, are the beneficiaries.)

Now it’s rolling through hitherto ‘protected’ industries like financial services and healthcare. Financial services start-ups are offering checking account, credit card, mortgage and other services with less hassle, and at a fraction of the cost.

People no longer accept the medical mishaps that, in America alone, kill hundreds of thousands of people. (Every day in America, a jumbo jet full of people dies because of medical error)

The key to culture shift, I’ve learned, is the leader’s mindset. (Can we afford bozo leaders anymore? Could we ever?)

Company Boards, Recruiting Committees and equivalent, if I may, please recruit, monitor, reward and mentor capable ‘servant’ leaders. It’s your most important job.

And to all the splendid leaders, if I may, please teach others the right way to manage, the right way to lead. (It’s your most important job, no?)

Best regards,


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

When You’re Convinced You’re Right, You’ve Lost Your Ability to Learn
On Labels – ‘Expert, Master, Sensei’ and the like
Fred Taylor & the Illusion of Top-Down Control - Part 2
Fred Taylor & Illusion of Top-Down Control - Part I

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