Are Your Leaders Still Practicing Command and Control?

They used to say in the industry: location, location, location. I say people, people, people; you invest in stores, you invest in events, but investment in people is the most important.

That strong statement is from Sidney Toledano, the CEO of Dior, speaking in a recent interview in the Financial Times.

Sometimes, as we read articles or books, there are certain words or statements that stop us cold. We have all heard the maxim about retail being the 3 Ls. However, I think this is the perfect transformation from a hard to soft competency. While at one time it was about real estate and a hard location, that dynamic has changed. However, there are a lot of organizations that did not get this memo.

Understanding the new approach

This viewpoint is so connected to the “new” organization. You cannot expect business results unless you view your strategy through the lens of talent. I say “new” organization as the majority of companies classed as “best places to work” by whatever process are, for the most part, newer companies.

As I read Toledano ‘s comment, I recalled a conversation I had with a senior leader concerning turnover. What he said to me was, “Let them leave and we will find someone who can do it cheaper.” That is the 3L approach. Whether it is banks, factories, geographical regions, it does not matter. The locations that produce the best results within your company are the ones that are people focused. Whether it be the leadership at that branch, or factory, or that region, the superstars are always driven by a people connected leader.

Making the transition

As we move away from the old command and control concept of leadership into the new realm, we must be mindful of how entrenched the old style is in some organizations. At one time it was by far the most common leadership style. Most of today’s leaders still caught in the time warp were mentored themselves by command and control managers, and the culture of so many of those organizations is still based on command and control norms.

The new leaders whose focus is on the 3Ps all exhibit — for the most part — the following:

  • Leads from the side
  • Inspires
  • Trust and delegates
  • Asks questions and solicits suggestions
  • Treats staff as colleagues

Saints vs. sinners

It may appear, as we read about the different leadership styles that it comes down to command/control vs. people manager. But from every indication today, the pendulum has swung to a soft skill based style.

According to an article in Psychology Today the top 10 competencies for the new leader are all soft based. However in a lot of businesses today career progress is based on technical skills. Best engineer becomes the manager of other engineers. Best sales person becomes the sales manager. This concept has a detrimental effect over a period of time. People are put in roles based a skill that has nothing today with managing.

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The new work environment

A lot of work today is based on a team or project concept, yet that dynamic is not taken into consideration when leaders are chosen. However, to produce timely results for business initiatives new leaders must have a skill set that syncs with teams. This is because the role of this new leader is to inspire and lead a team as a collaborative effort.

The headwinds facing the organization today will require a rethinking of leadership models. The task is to find the success model within these organizations and build to that blueprint. What is evident today is that the right people in the right roles and managed by the people manager is the formula that will spell success.

So my new mantra is the emerging presence of “People, People, People.” That is easy enough to say, but for any organization to be successful in this new environment, they must fully embrace it.

About the Author

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.