The Self-Awareness Guy

My Way or the Highway Leadership

It's tempting to want things to always go your way when you're in a leadership position. After all, you're the person running things, you possess valuable experience and the buck stops with you. This do-it-all (and often know-it-all) leadership approach creates workplaces where people are expected to do things one way, from one perspective and, if they have any questions or ideas, keep them to themselves or find the door. My way or the highway leadership is quite common in our workplaces although it limits leaders' ability to use their employees' wisdom and experience to build well-functioning workplaces. Here are three major characteristics of leaders who like to do it their way.

Nobody Knows More than Me

There is no way that anyone has any insights or wisdom that is greater than yours. You are the definitive source of knowledge on whatever topic arises. As ultimate arbiter, you have an understanding of processes and procedures that no one else could possibly possess. You are required to explain things even when people appear to already know them. You engage in playful banter to show how much you know and always let people know when they're mistaken. You tell employees that you're privy to information that they don't have and you dole it out in a miserly fashion. When nobody else knows as much as you do, you're indispensable and in control. Nothing can be done without your approval, physical presence and watchful eye.

No Other Ideas Matter or Are Valid

No matter how brilliant or useful someone else's ideas are, they are not as valid as yours. Things are done in your organization in a certain way because of the careful thought and dedication you put into creating a well-running workplace. Processes and procedures have always been done the way you say and, it's worked so far, so why change it? When people offer you ideas you say things like, "That's great, here's how we're going to do it." Brainstorming is non-existent in your workplace because that would add unnecessary clutter to the mix and you already have a procedure in place for that anyway. When no other ideas matter but yours, you create a workplace where people feel unimportant and undervalued.

There Are No Other Options

When you have no other options but whatever comes out of your head, it paints you in a corner and limits your access to other ideas. You miss other possibilities and opportunities to do things more effectively and stifle your employee's and organization's ability to grow. When no new information gets in then there's less of a chance of finding that next thing that will help your organization succeed. Existing problems and challenges never go away because you're not open to trying new things to change direction. Events catch you off-guard because you only have one approach to fix many different situations. With limited options, you're more likely to generate limited results.
If you've ever worked in an organization where this was the preferred leadership style, you know what it's like to do the same thing, the same way, every day, without being able to question anything or add your input. Authoritarian leaders run things this way because it's much easier to bark orders to submissive drones than it is to work collaboratively or have someone challenge your wisdom. The key to moving away from this leadership style is to realize that your employees have a wealth of information and experience that can improve your workplace. Working collaboratively gives you access to amazing brain power and creates a more dynamic, engaged and productive workforce. What will you do instead of my way or the highway?