Getting Rid of the Perfect Executive


Getting Rid of the Perfect Executive?

Well, maybe that would be unwise.

It is probably a better idea to get rid of the executive who somehow thinks or acts like he is perfect, because of the damage he does to those around him.

So goes the thinking I happened upon in two separate Harvard Business Review articles (I am wading through a pile of my unread back issues.)

One article is entitled “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” and was written in February 2007 and was co-authored by Peter Senge. The other is called Wanted: Chief Ignorance Officer and was written back in November of 2003.

The basic idea I took away is that the executive’s job is too complex to pretend that any one person can figure it all out. Also, the more an executive defends the idea that they have figured it all out, the more difficult they make it for the people around them to be authentic, and therefore effective.

As the author the second article, David Gray, puts it, “… few of us would dare to cultivate a healthy ignorance, or nescience, within our own fields of endeavor, where we often take pride in what we purport to know.”

Here in the Caribbean region, we have been steeped in the school of all-knowing leadership, from Backra (the all-powerful slave-owner) to modern day CEO’s, parents, principals, priests, dons and politicians. Those in power like it that way. So do those who are not.

That is, until the person in power fails spectacularly (like the majority of our politicians) and it starts to become painfully obvious that the messiah’s manifesto and message aren’t enough to make a drop of difference.

This very old, colonial, British style is long outdated in Britain, but it lives on in the colonies, and especially those in management in our institutions. It is stale, stiff and dull, but it still gives some vague psychological comfort… kind of what it’s like to hang out with your grandfather.

The only thing is that at some point you must grow up, because your grandfather probably did not move with the times (mine had trouble believing that man had actually landed on the moon.)

Managers and executives must reach for a style that is authentic. With respect to publicly expressing feelings and emotions, this is a tall order for most of our region’s executives who probably aren’t too used to “sharing” in private, let alone before strangers.

However, the pace at which human information is growing might allow most executives to be authentic about their growing inability to know everything.

That would be a start.