At school, they call it bullying. In corporate America, you might recognize it as executive hubris.
The effect is the same: The person in charge shuts others down, leaving behind a demoralized culture.
What makes some leaders do it? In the paradox of power, people who rise to the top have been rewarded for knowing, not asking. The higher they rise, the more self-reliant they become. They shut out input from others and listen less.
Marty Nesbitt, president and CEO of The Parking Spot, fights against the paradox.
When others come to him with enthusiasm and commitment for an idea, he backs them in exploring the idea until they can convince him of how it will make money or solve a problem.
He recalls one situation when he wasn’t so sure about an idea initially. The company’s newly hired brand manager presented a brand identity based on black-on-yellow polka dots.
Nesbitt didn’t like the idea. The brand manager, meanwhile, said that the current identity was all wrong.
“I knew if I was to be the leader I want to be, I had to let this go. It was the bestgesture to say we must do it,” he says.
He gave the idea the green light, and the rebranding campaign began. Soon after, the company experienced tremendous growth, which he attributes largely to the new identity campaign.
“It was the single most important business decision we ever made and I made it, not from a financial perspective, but because I knew it was the right thing to do as a leader.”
Lesson: Be careful that strong-mindedness doesn’t harden into closed-mindedness.
— Adapted from “The High Cost of Executive Bullying,” Susan Lucia Annunzio, Chief Executive.