While many of us may be reeling in shock from the blatantly self-serving roguery of President Jacob Zuma, and others are raging and marching, yet others are leaping to his defence, apparently oblivious to the political suicide the ANC seems to be committing. We might ask ourselves how we got to this point. How did we arrive here?
The chilling truth is that it was not an event. It was a process. Leaders go rogue because the system allows it. At first, it may be small acts that a leader gets away with. Maybe she takes advantage of a relationship for her own gain, or unduly influences a colleague to make a decision that is in her favour. Perhaps there is a slight slap on the wrist, but there is certainly no swift corrective action that ensures that there is no repetition. Then there are other instances of actions or decisions that are out of alignment with company values or vision but “Oh well. That’s just how she is – and you can’t fault her on her KPIs!” This serves to create entitlement and an air of impunity. Before long, the entire organisation is in the thrall of the rogue leader, it looks nothing like it used to, and is off down a different path than was envisioned by its leaders in a previous time.
The essential difference between “going rogue” and something more akin to poor communication or lack of clarity is in the intention. We may have many people who are unclear about the organisational vision and strategy, who are simply doing the best they can with what they have – that is, their intention is to act in the best interests of the organisation, but it is their lack of clarity that has taken them off track. This is clearly a management and leadership issue, and responsibility lies with this person’s manager for not acting more swiftly to bring them back on track. However, the manager who has “gone rogue” has done so intentionally, with a view to serving his own narrow interests. In pursuit of this, little by little, bit by bit, he will abuse what power he has in order to accrue more and more power, and before too long the rest of the organisation discovers that he is virtually unassailable – or it seems that way. What often happens is that the senior leaders of the organisation become increasingly unable to take action against him. Over time, he may have done any or all of the following:
- He has consistently delivered on his KPIs (through fair means or foul) and his contribution is regarded as essential. In fact, the leadership team probably fears the negative impact to the organisation should he leave – which is exactly why his behaviour is tolerated.
- He has deepened his relationships with very senior people in the organisation and created a “Chinese wall” around those people, preventing direct communication between his own reports and these leaders. This is easy to do in organisations where senior leaders do not make a point of making direct and regular contact with people at all levels in the organisation;
- He has found ways of compromising colleagues so that they are less likely to act against him for fear of the consequences;
- His reports have become afraid of acting against him because it pretty much always turns out badly for anyone who does.
The consequences of not taking action against a rogue leader include:
- She is encouraged to continue with her behaviour because failure to act on the part of senior leadership is tantamount to tacit approval;
- Others may also emulate her rogue behaviour – which then becomes engrained in the organisation’s culture;
- The corporate vision is diluted and mockery is made of the organisation’s explicit or aspirational values, replacing them with a more toxic set of implicit lived values. This will inevitably result in the loss of good people from the organisation, as well as impacting on the organisation’s results;
- There is massive loss of alignment, which carries with it toxic levels of political manoeuvring as people seek to protect themselves and their territory.
Have you experienced rogue leadership? What happened and what did you do about it? In our next article, we will deal with what you can do when leaders go rogue. If you are interested in more articles on the topic of leadership, follow this link and let me know if you agree or disagree.
https://tonymorganlive.com/2015/09/17/leader-alignment/; How To Keep Leaders From Going Rogue by Carey Nieuwhof.
https://linked2leadership.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/when-a-leader-goes-rogue/; When A Leader Goes ‘Rogue’ by Allan Kelsey.
http://cherylcran.com/2014/08/what-to-do-when-a-team-member-goes-rogue/; What To Do When A Team Member “Goes Rogue” by Cheryl Cran.