Leadership / Management

Worst leadership advice ever? ‘Be a dictator’

Yell You have to hand it to George Cloutier: He's not afraid of looking like a relic.

The self-described "turnaround ace" wrote a column for Entrepreneur.com recently that offered this quaint piece of advice for today's leaders:

"It's not your job to dispense praise, affirmation, hugs and cookies to your staff. They have to respect you, not like you. Let them know that you are going to hold them accountable for their actions. Be in control and be controlling. It's better to drive your employees nuts than to lose money."

Want more? Cloutier offered his list of "attitudes and practices that small-business owners should have." Here are just a select few. In the words of humorist Dave Barry, I'm not making this up:

  • "Be a dictator. Your directives must be clear and absolute."
  • "Tell your employees: 'Don't think -- obey.' You want them to do what you say, not what they think they should do."
  • "Fear is the best motivator. Strict accountability and the fear of losing a job are highly effective employee performance enhancers."

Wow. It's hard to believe there are people out there who still believe stuff like that.

Cloutier has written a book titled "Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing." Follow his advice, though, and those profits will follow your entire staff right out the door. The economy is edging toward recovery and workers are feeling free to job-hop again. You think they're going to put up with a "Don't think -- obey" attitude from their bosses?

That iron-fist approach to management won't do much for innovation, either. Who on your staff is going to want to take cutting-edge chances if they're working for one of Cloutier's tyrants? And if you're not innovating, George, where do you suppose those profits are going to come from?

You know, I half-suspect that Cloutier is just trying to get a rise out of us, and in my case, he succeeded. I was getting ready to rant when I saw that the Lead Change Group's Mike Henry beat me to it. Mike offers five terrific reasons why he would rather "wrangle carts or mow yards for a living" than work for a leader like the ones Cloutier describes. In Mike's words:

  1. "My best energy and my best effort is worth more than money, it’s worth respect."
  2. "We won’t give our best to a tyrant. You will never get our best for just a paycheck because we have to keep some energy in reserve to look out for our family."
  3. "Maybe if you asked instead of telling, you’d find a better way to do things."
  4. "If another company can be profitable and bless the people who invest their lives in the effort, then I will forget you and your crap about knowing the best way to do things the minute I can."
  5. "Tyrants aren’t perfect either."

Neither are the columnists who sing their praises.

And for what it's worth, as of this writing, Mike's column had been retweeted 131 times and had 52 comments. Cloutier's column offered readers no opportunity whatsoever to leave feedback.

When it comes to respecting the opinions of others, I guess Cloutier practices what he preaches.

What do you think? Does leadership stop at the bottom line?


Bill Sheridan