Management Articles


 

Leadership Lost

By: Jim Clemmer

Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/


Many successful companies were started by passionate zealots who had or developed a strong technical expertise matched only by their powerful vision and intense drive to succeed. This energy and excitement attracted like-minded people (team members, customers, partners, etc) and fuelled their early growth. But because these companies weren't well balanced, their management systems and processes were often weak. So at some point in their development, either the financial struggle or the desire of the original owners to "cash out" triggers a sale, merger, or hiring of new senior managers.

Then the "professional managers" take over. Slowly the spirit and vitality is squeezed out of the company. The sense of making a difference and being part of a cause is replaced with goals, objectives, and "the bottom line". Communications that once reported exciting news of new customers, fledgling products developed on a shoe string, new market frontiers opening, and outstanding service delivered in extraordinarily tough circumstances is now filled with dry reports on progress to sales and profit goals, committee activities, strategies, budgeting, and business planning. It's uninspiring and lifeless. It turns people into their roles, systems, and processes. They become number crunchers, orders processors, product producers, sales pushers, researchers, technical problem solvers, managers, and budgeters. Their heart and soul is lost. They went from being part of a cause that provided a pay check to collecting a pay check without a cause.

But many people aren't taking it any more. I've run into dozens of people in the last few years who've taken early retirement, gone back to school, started their own business, or turned down a bigger job assignment. They took a financial loss in order to make a deeper gain. Their personal net worth has been dramatically boosted by how they feel about the person staring back at them each morning in the bathroom mirror.

Many of these once exciting companies start as living, breathing (sometimes close to uncontrolled) organisms who, like a mysterious life form in a Star Trek episode, feed and grow on human energy (which they multiply and return). Much of that entrepreneurial energy comes from market and financial successes. Just the belief in that eventual success may be enough. But once the "technomanagers" take over, that once living organism becomes a lifeless machine that feeds strictly on money. There is a vague sense that people and energy somehow helps to create the money. But everybody is too busy looking for more money to pour into the increasingly demanding machine to bother checking out that fuzzy notion.

The intangible sense of spirit is even more critical in people dependent service businesses like information-based or high technology industries. Within these fast evolving fields, many high performing start up firms have been acquired or merged by Technomanaged larger companies. As those spirited, organic firms become company machines, too often their founding spirit and best people slowly disappear. Since these industries have been in a high growth mode, these problems have been papered over with prosperity. Once the growth slows down and/or competition increases, many of these Technomanaged companies with their hollowed out souls will become mere shells of their former selves.

© Copyright 2000 The CLEMMER Group

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