The Dispensable Leader (An Excerpt)

Recently, we reviewed a Blog by Pete Ashby, leadership author and Director of ASALeader.Com.  He discusses some issues that relate to Humility, Candor and treating people with respect.  Obviously we not only agree with him, but M302 believes that’s it’s even more important than we all realize.  Below is an excerpt.   

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“…As a leader, how do you want others to view you?

For so many, the sign of success has been that they should be viewed as indispensable.  What a gift: indispensability.

In the midst of the “cultural revolution” that we’re all experiencing on the back of the 2008 financial crash and now for us in Europe the slow motion crash of the euro, this is one of many things that are now changing.

We need our leaders to see themselves as dispensable.  And the more dispensable they see themselves as being, the easier it is to trust them.

This is quite a profound shift that’s taking place.  In a way that has taken many of us by surprise, there’s something more important than ever now about the moral standing of a leader…

Three challenges for you as a leader:

1.  Be more relaxed about treating yourself as dispensable

Today you can’t trade on the deference of the general public and the passivity of your shareholders in ways that you could have done five years ago.

The trust and respect of others is more precious and precarious than before because our trust in the leadership class has taken one hell of a battering.

This isn’t to suggest that we want you to over-do humility.  We all like to see our leaders “walking tall”.

But it would be nice if when we see you walking tall we also pick up some signals that you’re not taking for granted those who invested in your business and buy the goods and services that you’re offering in the market place.

2.  If you have bad news for us, or a really tricky dilemma that you can’t solve in one fell swoop, tell us – and GIVE IT TO US STRAIGHT

Don’t pretend you have an answer if you don’t.

It’s so much better that you should offer us an accessible definition of the core problem that you’re trying to solve.  We’ll respect you for that.

We’d much rather that you honestly own up to differences of opinion.

Whatever you do,  DON’T act as if you have achieved a consensus and then offer us a form of words that could only be agreed because they mean different things to different people.

3.  Remember that we live in a world of ever-greater transparency and that’s here to stay

Your behaviors and personal and professional standards will be more open to the public eye, and, frankly, if you’re still in the game of wanting to take ever increasing bonuses from your business and live the high life, don’t be surprised when others want to compare how you treat yourself with how you treat those who work for you.

Personally, I believe that there should be a pretty direct link between the percentage pay increase that a Chief Executive takes and the % increase that you award your own people.

If you expect your staff to limit themselves to a 1% increase or – as is increasingly the case – accept a pay freeze and therefore a real cut in their living standards, how could you even contemplate trying to justify a huge pay increase for yourself?

Increased humility and ambition

A central part of the challenge for all leaders is to engage more with your own people and make it that much easier for them to trust you when you say “we’re all in this together”.

Millions of workers are having to embrace their own dispensability and adjust to it as best they can.

So for leaders who seek genuine engagement and sharing of ambition, it’s not unreasonable to ask that you act in a way that embraces your own dispensability as well.

After all, as large number of your people tell themselves every day, embracing one’s dispensability means that we need to fight that much harder to hang on to all that we have wanted to take for granted.

Increased humility and increased ambition.  There’s a powerful combination if ever there was one…”


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M302 thanks Mr. Ashby for his insight, as it continues to solidify the M302 philosophy.  One that believes respect for all, regardless of their position creates a win-win, no matter the situation.  Even in defeat or bad times, candor and respect remains the best way treat and communicate to your subordinates.

We wish you Peace…

2012, Pete Ashby,