The (in)effective leader

Consider the following scenario:

  • An automotive company is responsible for manufacturing parts of brake systems (let’s name this company “AUTOMOTIVE LTD”)
  • Since the last 3 months the company has been experiencing delays in production
  • Delays are happening because five of the most experienced employees were recently transferred to a different facility; five new employees were recently hired to fill those positions. However, they are still in the “learning stage” (not as experienced and fast as the others)
  • As a consequence, (a) all other employees are having to do extra work (this includes assisting the new hires and doing their own jobs at the same time), and (b) the company is not meeting its sales goals
  • One of the company’s missions is to provide the best quality brake parts in the market, save people’s lives, and avoid traffic accidents

The story: The CEO (let’s name her “Patricia”) of AUTOMOTIVE LTD is visiting the facility to talk to the factory leader about the current situation. It is important to mention that this factory leader (let’s call him “John”) is a very influential individual in terms of motivating the rest of the employees that work in the factory. However, John has been finding himself demotivated and under pressure because of the extra work, and he is even considering quitting the job.

Patricia – the INEFFECTIVE leader:
Patricia: Hello John, my name is Patricia, the CEO of this company. I am visiting this plant to get a better understanding about the current situation, which is affecting our sales goals.
John: Hello Patricia, very nice to meet you. The main cause of this huge reduction in our production is because five of our most experienced employees were placed in a different facility. We are all doing our best to provide assistance to the new hires while continuing to do our own tasks. I believe by the end of next month we will be able to meet the organization goals.
Patricia: I appreciate your help John. However, just keep in mind that is really important to meet those goals. So make sure everyone is working as fast as they can. In the meantime I will hire one person just to provide assistance to the new hires. Thank you.

Patricia – the EFFECTIVE leader:
Patricia: Hello John, it is a pleasure meeting you. My name is Patricia. How are you today?
John: Hello Patricia, very nice to meet you too. I am well…how about you?
Patricia: I am pretty good, thanks. So John, the reason why I am here today is because I would like to help you and everyone here to find the best way to increase our production rate. Could you tell me a little bit about this recent situation? Do you know the reason of this reduction?
John: Yes, absolutely. The main cause of this huge reduction in our production is because five of our most experienced employees were placed in a different facility. We are all doing our best to provide assistance to the new hires and keep doing our own tasks. I believe by the end of next month we will be able to meet the organization’s goals.
Patricia: I honestly didn’t know that. Thank you for sharing, John. So I will help you with that. You just mentioned that by the end of the next month you will be able to meet the organization’s goals. However, keep in mind that manufacturing our products as fast as we can is NOT our priority. What is most important for all of us, however, is the QUALITY of our product, which doesn’t mean they have to be done quickly. Every single part produced by us will be used by drivers to brake their vehicles, which can be used at a mere traffic light or even to prevent an accident. Just imagine if one of these parts is produced with a defect. We are saving lives, John. You are saving lives. Have you realized how important your role is in this organization? Focus on dedicating yourself to provide the best quality products to clients. Don’t ever worry about doing it fast. In the meantime, I will hire one more person strictly to provide assistance to the new hires, so that you can focus more on your daily tasks and not feel under pressure. What do you think, John?

Conclusion for Patricia, the INEFFECTIVE leader. John is far more likely to:
1. Quit the job
2. Do things faster and commit a serious mistake in the production process
3. Spread word of mouth to other employees that Patricia doesn’t understand what the real problems are and that she didn’t help at all
4. Feel demotivated to work, which will consequently cause a negative impact on other employees (because John is their leader)

Conclusion for Patricia, the EFFECTIVE leader. John is far more likely to:
1. Stay in the job
2. Do things with passion and commitment because Patricia has showed him the huge importance of his role in the organization (John saves lives)
3. Spread word of mouth to other employees that Patricia was willing to help them and that she could understand their actual problems because she cares
4. Feel more motivated to work which will consequently cause a positive impact on other employees (because John is their leader)

So, what do great leaders actually do? They:
Inspire and motivate their employees
Share the company’s mission and vision with others
Have the ability to listen AND understand the actual problem
Put themselves in others’ shoes
Care about others
Try to solve problems even when they know the solution right away
Recognize the value of their employees
Show humbleness (“I honestly didn’t know that. Thank you for sharing, John.”)

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