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The Collapsing Corporate Layer Cake


The strength of any organization is the direct result of the strength of its leaders. Weak leaders equal weak organizations.Strong leaders equal strong organizations. Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership.– John C. Maxwell

The Corporate LAYER CakeHave you ever been part of an organization that has had so many unnecessary hierarchical layers that it was impossible to access the Leader?

Have you ever reported to a Leader that has been weaker than you?

Have you ever been  in a Leadership position where the people reporting to you have resisted your authority or failed to do the work they are responsible for?

Has decision making in your organization been prone to colossal delays because of having to trickle through so many layers that the original intent is lost in translation , much like a game of Chinese Whispers?
Then Read on to find out more about one of the most common maladies ailing large and growing Corporations: The Malady of the Collapsing Corporate Layer Cake.

Some Organizations grow so quickly that the Leader often puts into effect additional bureaucratic layers in order to minimize his own work.

However in so doing he limits his accessibility to Trusted people  who buy in to his Leadership style and places an unconscious impediment to swift decision making that will mar the Organizations Future Growth.

1. One of the biggest mistakes that solid and growing organizations tend to make is to promote technically adept, ego driven people into People management positions.

I have seen this happen so often, it boggles my mind how people reporting into this type of Leader function at all. If a Leader knows how to do a job, he should be provided advancement to his career without a doubt.

But unless he is willing to impart his technical prowess to those under him in a way that commands trust and respect, this type of Leader will quickly be perched on top of a toppling cake as his subordinates start a mass exodus or just plain resist his authority,

The mass exodus of a frustrated workforce most often happens because subordinates do not buy-in to a newly appointed leader’s style.

2. Contrary to popular belief, the foundation of the Corporate cake is not a task force of front line workers with the ego driven leader perched precariously at the top , his position held and reinforced by the work of others.

This is the Leader who has not invested time in building relationships with those under him, fails to recognize and appreciate the work of those serving the organization under his so called “leadership” and demands copious and frequent reports without providing feedback.

There has to be a feedback loop of effort and reinforcement for the relationship to continue and prosper in a  healthy and effective way.

Otherwise, this is a certain recipe for disaster, because when talent starts leaving a company, that perched leader without reinforcement from the workforce under him to sustain his career, is bound to fall from grace with those who appointed him in the first place and topple over.

3. Instead the foundation of a Layered Corporate Cake has to be strong, servant leadership, where the leaders form a solid supportive base to their team members and humbly assume the lowest layer of the cake, and the lightest load carrying members are perched on top.

In this kind of structure, the Leader is still in a position of authority but forms the base of the structure and not the top. They lead by example, sharing their expertise, and is down in the trenches doing the work with or collaborating actively with those who report to him .

Leaders that are not able to get buy in and commitment from those they lead in a smaller setting, should either not be promoted to a senior Leadership role without careful observation of their results.

I have frequently seen leaders who do not get buy in , blame it on the “negativity” of the participants and renege on their own ability to engender commitment from those serving under their leadership.

They should either be given the opportunity to grow themselves with a different group or be given more time to develop their leadership style with the same group. Only upon proven ability to lead, should they then be given the opportunity to lead at a senior position.

4. Worst of all is when Strong Leaders are placed in subordinate positions to weak Leaders in an unnecessary hierarchy created ostensibly to divide labour.

I have often seen genuine frustration from strong ethical Leaders who have been placed in a  subordinate position to Leaders who do not serve by example, are never there to support them and frankly do not care about their growth, and remains focused only on consolidating their own position.

This one is a true recipe for disaster!

It has been the rare case where a Leader steps aside from his own ego and allows an emerging Leader an opportunity to grow beyond his own position.

However that is the ultimate and true test of a Leader that deserves his position and commands respect.

Otherwise the Organization will be a Toppling Corporate Layer cake that no one will want to eat from!

When have you experienced either of these situations? Share below from your own experience so we can all grow!

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Categories : Leadership

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