Byron's Babbles

Do They Really Want To Know What They Need?

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2015

quote-people-don-t-really-want-to-know-what-happens-they-ask-you-for-just-a-second-but-then-they-don-t-jorge-garcia-68369I made a statement the other day that I didn’t necessarily make intending to be profound, but just how I felt at the time about something going on in my world. The statement was: “I really don’t think they really want to know what they need.” It was an authentic belief that that I had in the context I was in at the time, needed to be said. Turns out, it was heard loud and clear by those I was talking with. Peter Drucker said, “You need to use your energy where you can get results.” If you lead and organization you must know what you need, but are there times you don’t want to know what you need?

The thought of an organization, board, or leader not wanting to know what they need seems paradoxical, but is it? How many times are decisions made based on a knee jerk reaction or the self interest of someone. This really is a much bigger issue, as I found out from the discussion that ensued from the quick point of criticism I had made.

As John Kotter has told us; substance is more important than leadership style. This substance, in my view, includes making sure all those in the organization know what they need. This is so very important for those who are members of boards. A board member who just wants to make decisions based on personal wants or self serving desires will lose sight of what is needed for the great good of the organization. In other words, not caring or really wanting to know what is needed. This can happen very easily to school board members who have children enrolled in the school they are a board member of. It is very hard to what I call “leave the parent hat at the door,” and make decisions based on what is best for all students served by the school.Icarus

Sometimes hubris can cause us to not want to really know what we need. We, as leaders, get so locked into what we “know” is the right way to do something and we do not take the time to find out what we really need, or need to know. This is dangerous. I am reminded here of the story of Icarus and the power of hubris. Icarus and his father attempted to escape from Crete by flying. Icarus’s father constructed the wings from feathers and wax. Icarus is then warned by his father about the power of complacency and the danger of hubris. Icarus was instructed not to fly too low nor too high. The sea’s dampness would clog his wings and the sun’s heat would melt them. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.

It really is about not being in touch with the core values of the organization we serve. If we don’t want to know what we need we float through periods of time without direction or purpose. Challenges are difficult to solve and opportunities are hard to seize if we are not aware of what our organization’s real, underlying needs are. Great leaders need to ask the tough questions and want to know what they and the organization needs. There are those who say that the consequences of poor leadership are minimal because so many factors affect the performance of an organization. I would argue, however, that most of those factors can be influenced by leadership, both good and bad. Not knowing what an organization really needs can cause the leader to point in the wrong direction, give no direction, or not move fast enough. According to John Kotter, without sufficient leadership, the probability of mistakes increases greatly and the probability of mistakes increases greatly and the probability of success decreases accordingly.


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