“Just do what I say.”
“Do it now.”
“John, do X. Sally, do Y. I’ll do Z. Then we’ll met and put everything together.”
Wouldn’t leadership be easy if we could tell everyone what to do and they’d do it? It never seems to work like that, though, does it?
Most people understand that problems come up. They don’t always realize that command-and-control leadership often discourages people from working with would-be leaders who work with it.
Why do people still order people around?
I think one reason is how much popular media show leaders working with it. It’s simple and dramatic, but rarely works. When it works, it’s generally as a last resort in a crunch in an otherwise successful team. You generally need the team working successfully otherwise to overcome the resentment command-and-control creates.
That is, if you tell people what to do, they’ll resent you. If you are pressed for time and don’t have time for discussion, if you have strong relationships with your team mates, you can order them around for a short time, but you’d better revisit the interaction later to fix any problems or smooth over any frictions you may have created. They may not have told you about them in the moment and may still harbor resentment.
Why do people tell people what to do so much then? Don’t they sense how they don’t like it when people boss them around? I’m not sure, but I think seeing that model on movies and TV, and the great lack of showing other leadership models there, makes them not learn alternatives.
The clips below are typical. You’ve seen scenes like them many times. They’re dramatic, but hardly realistic, at least not without Tommy Lee Jones’s character relying on long relationships with the people in his team, which movies never show. His overshadowing people outside his team would create resentment. The movies show others falling in line to his authority, which seems unrealistic.
I find the scenes compelling and riveting, just unrealistic. They look like a child’s fantasy of how they would love to lead if other people did what they told them to.
From The Fugitive, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. I liked the acting too, but sadly found the scene didn’t help anyone understand leadership.
From U.S. Marshals:
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book