Wednesday, April 15, 2020

When leadership is autocratic

Autocrates and autocratic leadership -- on the one hand -- and the classic risk management on the other hand .... is the latter pointless in the context of the former?

And we ask this because:
From essayist Eric Grill writing in the leadership blog of St Thomas University we learn that:
Autocratic leaders typically make all major decisions on their own, with little or no input from others.
Extreme authoritarian leaders often insist on making even minor decisions.
Of course, it shocks the sensibilities to imagine "extreme authoritarian leaders" in a PMO, so for this discussion we'll set micromanagement aside.

But here's an eye opener, also from Mr Grill:
..... autocratic leadership works well in environments that require near-perfect accuracy .....
Software need not apply! The software guys can usually get by with any number of bugs... there's always v2.0

But the other thing is speed:
According to Grill, "Leonard D. Schaeffer considered himself an autocratic leader when he became CEO of Blue Cross of California, saying  'When a business needs to change relatively quickly, it’s much more important to just make a decision and get people moving than it is to take the time to conduct a thorough analysis and attempt to influence others to come around to your way of thinking.' "

Moving on to risk management
The RMO (risk management officer or office), especially in larger projects, is often "staff", and often required by policy rather than a perceived necessity. And, RM comes with these built-in ills:
  • RM is not accurate, steeped as it is in statistics and caveats and assumptions, etc
  • RM is not speedy, driven as it is by the need to identify threats, develop collection protocols and senors to gather data, analyze, and integrate assessments with context 
  • RM is often an opinion by those who don't have the responsibility for outcomes and consequences
  • RM is often self-conflicting, given that many have an opinion or an interpretation of the data
  • RM, even if correct, often does not alter outcomes
And so, the autocrat, valuing speed, results, precision (in many cases), through-put, and supremely self-confident ignores many staff inputs,  risk management among them (what difference does it make? asks the autocrat)

Or worse, the autocrat can't handle an opinion that differs from their set point of view, having some kind of psychological barrier.  The worst of these are "advisors" who form an opinion and then can't bring themselves to change their mind when new information comes along.

And so what to do if you're the RMO?
  • Work on the perceived RM ills (listed above)
  • Focus on risks that make a measurable difference to organizational success
  • Be persistent pressing your case
  • Speak truth to power (if you're inhibited by the autocrat, spend your time on your resume)

Buy them at any online book retailer!