Getting Fired for Odd Reasons?!?
A recent IBTimes.com article lamented, “Sometimes CEO’s Get Fired for Odd Reasons.”
Highlighting a high profile CEO, the article says he was fired for “abrasive” personality and management style. Also documented in the article were other prominent CEO’s allegedly let go due to abrasive personalities and leadership styles that alienated others.
What, I wonder, is so odd about firing leaders for having abrasive personalities and management styles?
Aren’t leaders accountable for setting positive examples, living out corporate values? Aren’t they supposed to create trust and build highly effective executive teams? Can leaders with styles that alienate others genuinely engender the trust and commitment from those following them?
To me, the real question is: Why are leaders with abrasive personalities and management styles left in their roles at all?
Frequently, it is because they make money for the corporation; sometimes it is due to someone they know; sometimes it is because the company expects obedience, not trust. Sometimes “abrasiveness” is a matter of opinion—what is abrasive to some is hard working, hard driving, success to others.
However, no one I know will commit to someone we don’t trust—an interesting fact is that we tend to trust most those whom we like and for whom we have respect (John Dickson, Humilitas). Does it not stand to reason that followers will commit more energy and effort to produce more/better results for leaders who aren’t abrasive?
To me, an abrasive management style indicates excessive self-focus, which typically manifests itself in a demanding, autocratic leadership style coupled with expectations for gains in personal reputation, power and wealth—characteristics that alienate team members and followers, while undermining trust.
Admittedly, my evidence primarily is anecdotal, yet leaders who demonstrate empathy, selflessness and authenticity are most effective in creating organizations that produce the highest employee engagement and deliver better than expected business results.
Leaders I’ve seen fail usually failed first at building trust—and it wasn’t for lack of basic integrity—instead, it was because their followers didn’t trust their motives and didn’t trust the leader to care about them as individuals or as a community. In most cases it turns out the followers didn’t like the leader very much.
The developmental challenge with abrasive leaders is to notice the tendency early in their careers and coach them directly on the issue. Some of what makes certain people seem “abrasive” can have roots in good things that need to be reshaped a bit.
Being fired for having an abrasive personality and management style is odd—really? I don’t think it odd… unfortunately, it’s just rare.
If you are a leader, have you pursued a healthy dose of self-awareness lately?