If so, they are putting your company on a course for certain failure. Failure that has little to do with the product or service you provide and everything to do with culture. Or more specifically, an inherent inability to evolve with the times and needs of the marketplace.
You really don’t need to be a “Greek fortuneteller”(what were they called?) to see the future.
These megalomaniac executives will lead to your downfall in 4 key areas:
1. (Lack of) Open Culture:
There was a time when that hierarchical, all-controlling figure at the helm of the business was both benefit and necessity. “Control” had its place in the business world. However, the ’70s are over. Mass social communications have demanded that companies respond to all manner of stimuli – direct and indirect – in an around-the-clock, follow-the-sun-around-the-globe kinda way.
A way to run a better business is by enabling a wealth of executives to make business critical decisions and empowering them to act and react around the globe. These organizations realize that the market’s demands of a company have changed – influencers, customers, social groups, forums, and communities, and even Wall Street – now expect to be heard. There is nothing wrong with a big personality at the helm, but unless there is a depth of empowered leaders behind the egoist, the company is missing on an opportunity to truly engage with their customers.
2. (Lack of) Social Business Partnership with Customers:
Customers now want to be part of the process – they want partnership. What is inherently challenging for these executives is their inability to see their customers as anything other than part of an accounting problem. They either are part of the bottom line or impact the bottom line. This isn’t a suggestion to forgo revenue. But a short-sighted understanding of the value your customers bring is missing the bigger opportunity.
A way to run a better business is to look to your customers as partners. This shift in how you approach your customers will bring you into new opportunities from them directly, from their insights in the needs of the market, and from their generous counsel. The shift from customer as “business who generates us money” into “business who is a trusted counsel (and makes us money)” is now viable because of the wealth of options to communicate with these customers – across their organizations and on many levels.
3. (Lack of) Ears to the Marketplace:
The digital and social world has made it easier than ever before to really hear what is going on in the marketplace. It would only make light of the events surrounding the Arab Spring to equate this to a business setting. However, it is interesting that those heads of government were caught completely unaware – until their fates were sealed. Robert Schuller said, “Big egos have little ears.” Most of these leaders have yet to adopt listening in the marketplace as an essential part of their culture.
A way to run a better business is to fully embrace social listening. Your customers, partners, and the market are now very vocal. Whereas a displaced customer might, 10 years ago, speak ill of you to 10 people at the country club, they can now reach thousands through social channels. It isn’t just about addressing mistakes, either. Good social listening can lead you into new product directions, into new markets, and to new opportunities. It can also lead your customers to be ambassadors of your brand.
4. (Lack of) Ability to Course-Correct:
Have you moved from “please don’t shoot the messenger” to “please don’t make me the messenger!” None of us likes to hear bad news, but critical insights about the business are exceedingly valuable. However, with an all-powerful executive, much of this discourse never reaches their ears. The corporate culture knows to not bring that news upward – there are too many executives left in that wreckage to make anyone think otherwise.
A way to run a better business is to create that culture of transparency. Modern analytics and technologies allow for data to be quickly and easily dissected. There is no end of smart data to support thoughtful business discussion and course corrections for the enterprise. The insight is there, but the body must be willing to be the messenger.
Is a megalomaniac executive going to bring your company to its knees overnight? Probably not. I think you will continue to make a fine buggy whip – a damn fine buggy whip – in a world that has proverbially moved from horses to automobiles. However, a way to run a better business is to trust your executives, open up your culture, partner with your customers, and have a more honest view of your company in the market. Bertrand Russell said it best with ”The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.”
Is now really the time for this type of leader?