When there is dysfunction in the authority structure of an organization, its growth is limited and possibly even totally prevented. Here are the top five dysfunctions around the principal of authority in corporate America today:

  1. Lack of a clear authority structure. When the chain of command is not clearly defined, chaos, dysfunction and frustration will ultimately ensue. This dysfunction is most frequently displayed in partnerships. Whether 50/50 or some other split of authority, eventually there will be decisions that can’t be made and thus stress or arguments. There are also frustrations or jealousies due to unequal workloads or pay amongst such partnership situations.
  2. Lack of respect for the chain of command. When you have subordinates who disrespect the chain of command, they create conflict. The same goes for titular leaders that don’t differentiate between the open door of communication and the proper channels of appeal.
  3. The inability to communicate up the ladder without fear of retribution with legitimate appeals and a clear appeal process. One of the quickest ways to shut down communication and growth is to allow managers to get away with punishing subordinates who have made legitimate appeals or efforts to communicate appropriate matters up the chain of command. A company, like a government, does well to have a healthy process of appeal, without which, bitterness and resentment will quickly grow and choke out your employees’ commitment and productivity.
  4. The lack of checks and balances. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A leader with no checks and balances is bound to get into situations where the lack thereof will stagnate growth in the team. Regardless of your integrity, if you are the top leader without a check, every conflict you might become engaged in, despite your belief that it has been resolved, will often fester unresolved in the heart of those who feel wronged. These offenses will inevitably affect employees and thus productivity, growth and profit. You must instill checks and balances with your power to prevent this now and in the future when your succession plan takes hold.
  5. Megalomania and rebellion. This can be displayed through the leader, whether it’s a president that is an employee, or an owner; but any leader that refuses to submit to the higher authority of either a board of directors/advisors or of the customer in appropriate matters will eventually endanger the existence of the organization.

There can be much debate about what areas may or may not qualify as those appropriate for the  leader to submit to the input or directive of the customers or a board (even if he appointed it). The main concern is whether or not that titular and seemingly autonomous leader is willing to submit to anyone on anything. The will to submit to correction is usually either there or not.

Either the person tends to exhibit some signs of megalomania and general rebellion against other authorities, or that leader is one with some sense of true humility and thus coachable and willing and able to be a part of a turnaround when and if one is needed. There is no middle ground on this issue.

The clear solution is that as a leader you must show, say and walk how you truly are willing to submit to some higher authority on at least some issues. This topic segues into the sire of all leadership virtue, humility, which we will cover next month.