Are you a department dictator?

by 13 Jan 2012

With the recent passing of Kim Jong Il, many stories of his bizarre leadership behaviour have been circulating, with some stranger than fiction. In a report by CBS Interactive, it has been found that there are many parallels between him and demanding managers. These are the five that particularly stand out.

1. False perfection

Kim Jong Il: According to an official government handout marking his 62nd birthday, Kim celebrated by demolishing a par 72 course in just 34 strokes, managing a world record five holes-in-one on the way. To top it all, the superhuman round was apparently the first time he had actually played the sport.

The manager: Do you find people agreeing with your ideas all the time? Well, the first clue that you’re a dictator is when everyone agrees with you. No one is right all the time – the same way no one hits 5 holes-in-one in their very first game of golf.

The solution: Ask your employees what they think first and bite your tongue if it is against your own idea. Sit down and really think through what they are saying before dismissing anything off-the-bat just because you don’t like it.

2. Overly Demanding

Kim Jong Il: In 2004, a former chef for Kim revealed the North Korean leader employed staff to make sure the grains of rice served to him were absolutely uniform in size and colour.

The manager: Are you nit-picky about the little things? Do you go catatonic when there is a small misspelling in the report? Do you demand that your employees all be at their desks exactly at 8.00 am? Do you get overly upset about dress codes or lunch breaks?

The solution: Unless the missing 0 in the report is linked to someone’s salary or bonus, it probably isn’t that important. Likewise, does everyone really need to be come back on the dot after lunch hour? Is there no flexibility allowed? Try taking a deep breath and allow people do things without controlling every step. They may surprise you.

3. Deserve better than everyone else

Kim Jong Il: According to Russian emissary Konstantin Pulikovsky, who travelled with Kim by train across Eastern Europe, Kim had live lobsters air-lifted to the train every day which he ate with silver chopsticks.

The manager: Do you insist that everyone comes in at the same time, while you can stroll into office as you please? Do you get a 40% bonus at the end of the year, while they get 2%? Do you get your own bathroom and parking space?

The solution: While managers get paid more because (theoretically) the job is harder, take a look at your perks and see if they are realistic. Sitting atop your own high fence will not help you build camaraderie among your team members, and instead puts you in an alienated position with no one to turn to.

4. Work outside your area of expertise

Kim Jong Il: He once wrote six operas in two years.

The manager: Opera writing isn't a bad hobby, but do you seek to do the jobs of your employees when you are not as qualified with the mindset that you can do it better?  Do you do your own graphic design, or insist on recalculating all the sales projections but lack the skills to do so accurately, so the original forecaster has to spend 3 hours at your desk going over each calculation, demonstrating why yours isn't accurate?

The solution: Stop micro-managing and trust the employees you’ve hired.

5. Take others down with you

Kim Jong Il: After suffering a back injury following a horse riding accident, Kim was prescribed painkillers. Fearful of becoming addicted, he ordered a half-dozen of his closest staff to receive the same injection under the logic that if he became dependent, he wouldn't be the only one.

The manager version: When things go wrong, do you dole out blame (whether deserved or not) on others? Or do you stay with the team to discuss and fix the problem together?  Do you find yourself blaming others for your problems?

The solution: When mistakes have been made, stop laying all the blame on your workers. After all, you were in charge of the project in the first place. Taking responsibility for your own failures is the mark of a great leader.


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