This train of thought was really started by a discussion with a client about his own management style which he considered a little "autocratic". One question he had was "Where does being able to make difficult decisions stop, and bullying start?". I think that any manager/leader who even asks this question - and thereby accepts the possibility th
at there may be things to learn - is likely to be falling on the right side of that particular divide. Nevertheless, it started me thinking.
Stefan Stern wrote his blog yesterday about the "Bully-boy school of management". He makes a good point about bullying managers being isolated from facts because staff become
too scared to bring him (and it is usually a him) bad news. He also spoke, in his blog, about the need for some managers to win at all costs. Winning is a difficult word for managers - everyone likes to not only be a winner but to be recognised as a winner. Google "Winning" and "Management" together will produce over 60 million entries. MSNBC quote a Business Week article ("Are you a good leader. Follow these rules - Management 101") which includes the rule "Winning at all costs is for losers".
So - no winning at all costs, then, and no bullying. So where does robust come in then. Well the MSNBC article has, at rule 4 "Tell the truth" and at rule 8 "Take responsibility for your mistakes".
I would add my own absolute rule - "Make decisions, even if they are unpopular and difficult". I suspect we have all worked for at least one prevaricator and have learnt how difficult it is if the person in charge will just not decide things.
So - just how robust can you be? That depends (you can tell that I'm a consultant...). The more difficult the situation the organisation finds itself in, the more robust a leader must be. Swift and decisive is the style most required in a crisis. In better times, however, there is more time to consult - and that is what a good leader should do.
I think I can summarise as follows - be robust, but do it well.