Management Articles


Executive Vulnerability

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

Senior executives and leaders of many organizations are very vulnerable. Like the Wizard of Oz, a good part of their power and might is an illusion.

If you are like many executives and organizational leaders, you were promoted because you have exceptional ideas, outstanding strategies, great plans and in particular you are able to make things happen. But now, as the organization's leader, you have to make things happen through everyone else. Now, your success is measured by someone else's implementation of your plans. Somehow you have to make those below you as effective as you are. Just telling people to do it does not work, especially when there are some people who would sooner your plan did not work! For years, executives have faced the stark reality that their authority was limited and determined by the rank and file.

Every day, newspapers are full of executive appointments - successful managers being elevated into vulnerable positions. Whether they succeed or fail and how they will be judged now depends on their ability to get their ideas implemented by others. The ivory tower has crumbled, and there are thousands of fired and over-stressed executives who had wonderful plans but nobody would implement them.

Often there is a wide gap between policy enunciated at the executive level and what actually happens throughout the rest of your organization. Filters such as fears, perceptions, organizational levels and political motives remove or distort information going to and from you.

It's common for the executive to be left out in the cold, out of touch with reality and holding a different perception of what's actually happening in the organization. Political games are played in the organization and as a result confidence throughout the organization in the accuracy of communication leaving and entering your office is lowered. Policies and programs are therefore not implemented as expected. Plans and images that were so clear in your mind simply don't unfold the way they should.

When the organization fails to implement your plans and policies, your credibility is lowered and your judgment is questioned. Power doesn't automatically come with your executive title but a lot of stress and anxiety usually do.

As an executive, what you need is control to ensure that clear direction takes place from you, the policy maker, through to all the members of your organization and that accurate feedback flows from the bottom to the top so that you and your senior management know what is actually happening. But clear direction will not work unless you are also motivating your employees to do what you want them to. Directed motivation is only possible through ensuring consistency in management practices throughout your organization. Directed motivation means accountability for performance by everyone so that good work really counts and that double standards don't exist. And directed motivation means developing the confidence, trust and self-esteem of the work force.

Equally important, control requires that achievable performance standards are enforced at every level in the organization without destroying motivation.

But the crux of control is to make clear direction, accurate feedback, directed motivation and enforced standards a permanent part of your organization's culture -- systematized in your day-to-day operations. Only then do you really have control, only then can you control your organization's direction.

To survive at the executive level you can't sit back and let others manage your organization. You must still lead, direct and manage.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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