Why Are Many Government Officials Such Bad Leaders?
Warren C. Hoy was recently named plant manager of a DuPont plant near Buffalo, NY. A DuPont employee for 31 years, Hoy has some great thoughts about leadership that were reported in a Buffalo News article.
Through his 31 years of experience Hoy has learned the following about leadership:
- As a leader you don’t and shouldn’t make all decisions.
- Developing people by teaching them to make choices rather than just telling them what to do is critical for an organization. As Hoy states: “Give them a very clear understanding of what the end result needs to look like and then get out of their way. Give them the tools that they need and let them do the work”.
- Be clear on expectations and provide people feedback on how they’re doing.
- Give people flexibility to figure out the best way to achieve the results sought. Hoy states: “I tell folks, I’ll give you my opinions — I try to be very clear about when I’m giving direction versus just saying “Hey, here are some things to think about.” But I’ve had the chance to grow because I’ve had the opportunity that people trusted me to deliver on something, and I’m really trying to basically play that forward a little bit. … Rarely can I think of where we have asked someone to step forward and lead an effort and not be amazed at what they can deliver”.
My favorite quote in the interview is when Hoy states: “We have this mantra we use in the continuous improvement world called, “releasing the hidden plant in the hidden person.” That’s really what that’s all about. We’ve got employees at this site and others that are leaders in the community. They’ve got hobbies that they’ve developed into businesses or really strong activities. They’ve got the skills, they’ve got the capabilities. A lot of times, it’s a matter of providing them the opportunity to grow and shine”.
From my experience in government and from what I read about many government leaders, few take the approach that Hoy does in managing people. Many government leaders, especially elected ones take the opposite approach in that they:
- Think they should make all decisions;
- Micromanage employees instead of providing people flexibility;
- Are not very clear about expectations or in providing constructive feedback;
- Do not provide opportunities for others to grow and shine.
A recent Crains New York article highlighted the following leadership traits of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
- “He is so unbelievably involved in almost everything,” said an Albany insider of Mr. Cuomo. “On one level, it’s very impressive because he’s a machine in the way he works. But it’s also completely paralyzing and debilitating because [agencies] can’t go to the bathroom without him giving the go-ahead.”
- “While Mayor Michael Bloomberg delegates authority and holds his commissioners accountable, the reverse is true in the Cuomo administration, said one agency head, who, like many of those interviewed, asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “Other than the people who surround the governor, everything we do is assumed to be wrong,” said the agency head. “That attitude is great for the short term—everybody’s on message. But unless things loosen up, you’re going to see staff at the agency level leave office before the first term is up.”
- The governor has little incentive to change if he continues to enjoy victories and high ratings. But the defections that one agency head predicted may be materializing. The Labor Department has lost five top administrators, including a leading health and safety official. Others, such as a former top employee of an elected official and a well-known lobbyist, are in talks about working for Mr. Cuomo but are hesitant because of concerns that they won’t have autonomy. “You can’t run a government like New York and not have good, talented people around you,” the insider said. “That’s where micromanagement is going to come back to bite him.”
A New York Times article stated the following about Cuomo’s leadership style:
“… he has … alienated subordinates, who call his demands unrealistic, his approach overbearing and his intolerance for disagreement dispiriting.”
“… he will have to learn to trust and empower a broader circle of subordinates, and allow for pushback. If he does not, he could fail.”
While I have just used Governor Cuomo as an example, his style of leadership seems to takes place in abundance at all levels of government. Why do you think many government officials are such bad leaders?