Monday, July 5, 2010

Would you cover your leader's back?

Would you cover your leader's back? And what was it that formed this bond and trust?

It's a complicated pair of questions that says much about the relationship that you may or may not have with your manager.

In contemplating these questions, I encountered a humorous test of leadership in a story shared by authors Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan in the book Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results

The test is similar to the test I identified in Leadership Acid Test where the test is based on a concept orginally inspired by Michael McKinney at Leadership Now. In my earlier post I wrote,
Pick a Leader with a title. If that Leader no longer had a title, would you still follow him/her.
The Katzenbach story is based on the tale of two very different Navel officers with whom Katzenbach served. Officer Inskeep was a straight-up, command and control officer. He led strictly between the lines. Officer Stewart was more informal in his approach, leading outside the lines.

The story describes the plan for a full-dress Admiral's inspection that included a sword salute by the officers when the admiral arrived on deck. However on the day of the inspection the captain announced that the officers would NOT do the salute. Neither Inskeep and Stewart were on the ship at the time of the announcement.

If you reported to Inskeep (the command and control officer) and knew about the sword announcement, would you tell him? His men didn't and his sword salute was not only the only one but the clumsy action also knocked the Admiral's hat into the water.

On the other hand Steward had been informed about the plan by his reports, they covered his back.

Would you cover your leader's back? Would your reports cover your back?

This makes for an interesting test of leadership and clearly highlights a key benefit of informal leadership cited by Katzenbach.

The "Cover your back" story is depicted in the video below. It is recommend.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and informally.