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Assessing Temptation #3: Choosing Certainty over Clarity
Choosing certainty can paralyze a company and slow its progress to a grinding halt. The tendency to be very thorough and analytical to alleviate risk can actually backfire and lead to even worse results. The book makes the point through examples of how certainty being pursued never actually leads to closure; there is always the one last element of information to be gained before a decision is made. In the name of certainty a CEO can procrastinate and kill the momentum their company has towards it goals (Clapp-Smith, Vogelgesang, Avey, 2009). Certainty begets analysis paralysis, which can in turn lead to companies having to pass on opportunities that go by them very quickly.
This temptation of certainty over clarity also robs a business of being agile and able to react extremely quickly to market demands. CEOs, fearing that they will be seen as weak, often choose not to be clear but instead opt for yet more study and research. Transformational leaders have often said that studies and research of alternatives is where programs and projects go to die.
Instead of letting this happen a CEO must embrace the concepts of being very agile and quick to respond to market threats and opportunities first with clarity. A strong transformational leader will take responsibility for being clearer and less complete with analysis of the data leading to a decision (Eisenbeiss, Boerner, 2010). As many studies of data suggest, fully 70% of the information needed to make a decision does not exist. This further supports the contention that leaders must go through a trial-and-error process on strategic decisions if the data is not available at the time. As painful as this is on a CEO's ego, they have to make a decision and keep moving their companies forward if they are going to get close to accomplishing their goals. In addition, choosing clarity over certainty also sets the remainder of the organization in motion over time, leading to more knowledge being generate and greater collaboration taking place. The CEO has to remember when faced with this temptation that their response to uncertainty will be multiplied throughout their entire organization. Choosing to make a decision without the best possible information will lead to an entirely different culture of their company, as managers and directors will increasingly adopt risks as well. The entire company moves forward when a CEO goes beyond this temptation and is bold enough to make a decision. I also learned from this section of the book that as much as perfect information is appealing to have for making personal decisions, it is far more effective to have the basic knowledge needed and continue moving forward (Lee, Gillespie, Mann, Wearing, 2010). The lessons learned from this temptation apply to CEOs and students alike; knowing when there is enough data is critical for getting work done on time and at a high level of quality. Imagine if Microsoft's founders had waited for just the right forecast and data to be generated showing that the PC operating system would be successful, or if Steve Jobs waited on research for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. At one point both Bill Gates and Analyzing Temptation #4: Choosing Harmony over Conflict
The CEOs in this section of the book held up, as examples wanted too much peace and too much harmony, so much, so that it robbed their subordinates and staffs of the passion they had for their positions. The reality of organizations is that conflict propels progress and it is essential for a company to grow over time. Conflict also helps redefine relationships and is a natural progression in the development of an organization. Seeking harmony too much can squelch the creativity that is also inherent in conflict as well.
The examples in the book also illustrate a critical point of conflict. It is essential for determining if a company is moving down the right road or not, if the direction is correct. People are not paid to be in continual agreement with the CEO they are paid to think. Often when a CEO stresses harmony, above all else he or she is saying that any divergent thought is not going to be tolerated and will be ignored at best (Lee, Gillespie, Mann, Wearing, 2010). This is very dangerous for organizations in rapidly changing industries that require constant vigilance and focus on what is going on with competitors and market conditions. Often it is the most passionate and outspoken employees who save companies from fatal errors and making major mistakes. It is critical for a CEO to seek out conflict and tolerate within the boundaries of decency and respect for individuals if their company is to survive. The dissenting voices in a business are the very ones that often save it. It takes a CEO to move away from being transactional or even authoritarian and work to become more transformational in their leadership style to ensure these dissenting and often conflict-inducing opinions in their companies get heard. Not only is this good management, it forces and entire organization to look at their problems and issues from a completely different perspective. Striving too much for harmony can kill a company by silencing the dissenting voices that can save it.
Assessing Temptation #5: Choosing Invulnerability over Trust
This last temptation was by far the most lethal as trust must be the foundation of all company operations and growth. This is the most malicious temptation as it also completely cuts communication off within a company as well, and could easily be construed as arrogance as well. For the CEO who practices invulnerability over trust the costs are heavy, as the book provides through examples. This temptation is also the one that leads to a CEO failing faster than any other.
On a more positive note, the transformational leaders in the book and studied in our course have chosen trust as the catalyst of their company's growth and functioning over time. Trust is an incredible accelerator and the shortest way to accomplish goals in a company. The best transformational leaders in business rely on trust as the fuel for their companies to move through troubling times and are successful because their subordinates seeing them self-sacrifice to get to their goals. All other temptations are capped off by this one, because all others contribute to a lack of trust over time and can undermine any CEO's credibility. For the CEO in search of relevancy and making an impact in their organization, they must concentrate on this aspect of building trust through authenticity, transparency and self-sacrifice if they are to overcome temptations.
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Clapp-Smith, R., Vogelgesang, G., & Avey, J. (2009). Authentic Leadership and Positive Psychological Capital: The Mediating Role of Trust at the Group Level of Analysis. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(3), 227.
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