After working with leadership teams for a long time at EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), we develop a keen sense of “dictate-dar” and we run for the hills when it shows up on the screen. What is “dictate-dar”? It’s short for dictator radar. When we do our initial “90 minute meeting” with the leadership team, it’s an opportunity for the team to get to know us and us to do the same with the team to see if there is a “fit”.

Why don’t we work with inflexible dictators? Because a “healthy” management team cannot exist if the visionary wants everyone just to follow orders. There is no question that a visionary has his or her standards or way of doing business which are not negotiable. But the true visionary is able to explain the “why” behind those standards or his or her way of doing business.

Here’s a great interview with Steve Jobs that addresses how Apple manages people:

You can’t polish rocks without friction, and like Tom Peter’s said a long time ago, “the military style of management only works if you have one enemy and you know who they are”. Otherwise, you need a team watching your back where they know and buy into the rules and the strategy of the game.

At EOS, we make it clear that there is no “consensus”. We also make it clear that to have a healthy and engaged team everyone must feel safe fighting for the greater good. At the end of the day, after everyone is heard, if agreement amongst the team cannot be reached, the integrator makes the final decision. Whether you agree or not, when you leave the room you support the decision.

In chapter 7 of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, he identifies a time when Korean Airlines were about to be shut down because of their fatalities resulting from crashes. Long story short, it was a cultural issue where nobody was allowed to question the captain. Through training the captains to abandon their cultural norms, eventually the first officer could at least question the captain without getting slapped in the face.

When my dicate-dar picks up a dictator on the screen, I walk away because I know we can’t achieve a true state of “healthy”. If the visionary is not both willing and able to listen, be open, and move or change, a true state of being healthy is impossible. The analogy I like in describing my job as an implementer is to ‘lead’ a team to the summit of Everest and back down. As we climb higher, the air gets thinner and the environment becomes ever more challenging. It is at these times it is imperative that ‘everyone’ on the team is willing and able to carry their load and think for themselves. History has proven that the dictator will not have the strength or ability to carry his or her team when times get tough.

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