What is Command-and-Control?
The “command-and-control” leadership model is a militaristic approach in which leaders and managers rule with an iron hand and a “because I said so” mentality. Top dogs make all the decisions and communicate them in a downward progression until they reach those employees who are tasked with carrying out the orders on the ground. These employees don’t ask questions; they do as they’re told and collect their paychecks for doing so. The system is not unlike the typical relationship between generals and foot soldiers—only the orders are different.
Command-and-Control Mindset Flaws
Because this hierarchical business order has been the way of things for so long, employers and decision-makers, especially Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, can have a hard time finding value in implementing new tactics. However, in the words of Albert Einstein, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
It Hurts Retention
Workers have far more options now, thanks to the internet, and if your company isn’t able to hire leaders who embrace the modern, more empathetic and vulnerable leadership model, you will likely lose many of your employees and have a hard time recruiting new ones.
Let’s take a look at three of the top five reasons, based on a recent study, why employees leave their jobs.
- Toxic company culture
- Poor management
- Lack of healthy work/life boundaries
Each of these deal-breakers can be directly or indirectly tied to a hierarchical command-and-control workplace culture. Employees consider micro-management, lack of respect, lack of trust, unrealistic expectations, long hours, intolerance for mistakes, and lack of growth opportunities to be signs of a toxic work environment. All of these factors tend to result from the command-and-control paradigm, which in itself is considered poor management these days.
It Affects Productivity
If members of your C-suite make everyone from their direct reports on down feel like they don’t have any impact or say in the company’s operations, decisions, growth, or direction, those employees will stop trying to do anything other than the minimum their job requires. Think of all the creativity, perspectives, and potential that could be missed and/or wasted if people with a my-way-or-the-highway mentality are at the helm. Good leaders foster autonomy and encourage ideas other than their own, which enables decision-making at a higher, more efficient level.
It Inhibits Communication
A command-and-control management style may allow communication from the top down, but it stifles communication from the bottom up. In effect, employees in this kind of environment feel like they don’t have a voice. Free-flowing communication is essential to any organization. Without it, deadlines are missed, pressures mount, and discontent brews.
The antidote to the authoritarian, old-school way to run a business is to make empathy and vulnerability your driving forces.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. An empathetic leader is one who not only understands and shares others’ feelings, but takes action and makes decisions while taking them into consideration. Empathetic leaders understand that anyone can have a bad day, we all make mistakes, and our personal lives can affect our work. They don’t say, “Suck it up and do your job.” They say, “How can I help?” and doing so breeds trust.
Empathetic leaders are also flexible. While they hold their employees accountable, are decisive, and take action, they aren’t married to their own opinions and are willing to be wrong. They incorporate other peoples’ opinions in their decision-making, welcome feedback, and will course-correct if need be. This attitude also builds strong, trusting relationships between leaders and employees.
Finally, to lead with empathy means to (Forbes):
- Consciously try to see things from another person’s point of view.
- Avoid judging someone else’s decisions or responses until you’ve gathered all the facts.
- Recognize and validate other people’s emotions without enabling them to use those feelings as justification for incorrect behavior/decisions.
- Articulate and enforce accountability while showing empathy.
Once, “vulnerability” might have been equated with weakness, but not anymore. In the workplace, especially as a leader, vulnerability is simply a show of humanity. Your leaders need to let the rest of the team see that they’re as human, fallible, and feeling as anyone else. It’s okay for them to express their emotions, their frustrations, and their fears, within appropriate parameters.
However, being vulnerable doesn’t mean they should drop all boundaries. Telling their team, “Some things in my personal life are affecting my concentration today,” and telling them all about your medical tests are two very different things. They need to be relatable without placing an emotional burden on others.
We know it’s important to you to find the right executives for your team. We can help you fill your most critical vacancies with candidates who strike the right balance between holding employees accountable and showing the vulnerability and empathy that will make them strong leaders.
By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano
President & CEO of Barbachano International (BIP)
Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Canada, and Latin America) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms for 6 consecutive years and currently ranks #26 and #3 on the West Coast.