The Paradox of Business

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 8, 2011

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Perhaps business leadership is the opposite of what it is generally supposed to be;

If so, we should - in searching for EllisDon’s future leaders - pick candidates who don’t exhibit the conventional attributes of leadership, but instead get that paradox. I just keep getting the same contradictions pounded into me, every day:

  1. Don’t Hire On ‘Competencies’ Or Career Experience: Hire on character above all else; you will end up being surrounded by people of outstanding competence.
  2. Give Away 100% Of The Credit: If you can discipline yourself to do this every day for absolutely everything, credit will then be heaped upon you in bucketfuls; even if you don’t want it, very often when you don’t deserve it.
  3. Non-Command And Control: Leaders are supposed to be either ‘command and control’ types or ‘decentralized’ types. In fact, you increase control by giving up command. People become more open and communicative when they aren’t being told what to do all the time; and, if you have all the information, you generally have things under control (This applies to you and the people who report to you and the people who report to them).
  4. You Don’t Need To Be Innovative: You just need to be curious, and innovations will be delivered unto you every day. (You do need to love and embrace them, however).
  5. Admit Your Weaknesses, And Ask For Help: And you end up being perceived as stronger and more competent than ever.
  6. Ignore The Shareholders Completely And Entirely: And they will make out like robber barons.
  7. Don’t Lead: Listen; wherever possible, be willing to be led (even if it hurts). The right decision always emerges. Especially if you got #5 right. (And: If you do have to step in and start making lots of decisions, that’s your failing, no-one else’s.)
  8. Don’t Worry: At least not so much. And as a result of that alone, many of your worries will go away. (My Dad taught me that one.)
  9. Don’t Be 100% Accessible Or 100% Immediately Responsive Internally: Spend more time thinking. (They’ll be alright, likely better, as they start to make their own decisions.)
  10. Your Leadership Is Not Proven By Whether People Have Confidence In You And Want To Follow You: It is proven by their confidence in themselves and their own leadership abilities (which in turn is defined exactly the same way).

I am not suggesting that EllisDon’s current CEO personifies these paradoxes (wish I did). I am suggesting that an awareness and embracing of them are what we should be looking for when picking the next one.