AKINYEMI: What happens when no one can tell the boss they are wrong?

Thursday December 12 2019

A team full of people who always agree with you as a leader is destined to fail. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Israelites, according to the Bible, left Egypt on a journey across the wilderness into their promised land.

They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, feeding on manna from heaven. Just before they entered the Promised Land, we are told, the Lord, instructed them that: “You shall not do at all what we are doing here [in the camp] today, every man doing whatever is right in his [own] eyes. (Deuteronomy 12:8 – Amplified Bible).

There you have it: As long as you continue doing what is right in your own eyes and you continue to operate without a sound structure, you will continue to wander in the wilderness and your Promised Land (whatever that might be to you) will be nothing more than a mirage. This is why many one-man companies never make it to becoming small and medium enterprises and why many SMEs never make it beyond there. It is why founders get to a place where they destroy the very things that they laboured to build.

Never forget that no one is too big to fail. No one is too rich to fall. Success creates a blind spot in business decision makers that often makes it difficult for them to see when they are going down the road of other failed businesses. This is why effective succession planning is a must. A time comes when you need fresh eyes. Unfortunately, your eye glasses in the natural will not help you to see your organisation better. Eye glasses do not deal with corporate blind spots created by success.


How then can you overcome this blind spot if you are successful? A time comes when you have to pay attention to the haters. They do not care about your feelings. They will tell it to you the way it is. Listen to those who tell you what you don’t want to hear. Identify those who do not always agree with you.


I have adopted a personal mantra where teams are concerned. If everyone always agrees with me all the time, then there is no need for them to be there. If you are part of my team and you always agree with me, then I am always right (which is impossible) and therefore there is no need for you. My greatest disciple is not the one that always agrees with me but the one that helps me to see in the places where I am blind.

As the impeachment saga of President Donald Trump continues in the US, we are seeing it unfold in real time.

What happens when no one can tell the boss that he is on a wrong path. We are seeing a scenario where all those who told him the truth — men and women of long standing integrity — were forced out of the White House.

We see what appears to be the triumph of sycophancy and the emergence of alternative facts. Who would have thought that respectable people will throw away their dignity in support of what appears to be blatant lies? The blind spot of success is also the blind spot of power. They cannot see beyond the office and the trappings of power and they will do anything and everything to protect that position even if it includes supporting the deception of alternative facts.


It is sad that Trump often said that the world was laughing at America. There was not much to prove it but then this past week at the NATO meeting in London a video emerged of other world leaders gossiping and laughing at President Trump. A model where you have always done things yourself, your way and for your benefit, is not sustainable. It may take you some way but pay day will eventually come. The reality will come to the surface.

Like the saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others. Every dream has a team. The danger is when the visionary wants the team to be composed with people like him or her. Think of it like a football team. You have the strikers, the goalkeeper, the defenders and the midfielders. A team full of strikers is destined to fail. A Team full of defenders is destined to fail. A team full of goal keepers is destined to fail. A team full of midfielders is destined to fail. Similarly, a team full of people who always agree with you as a leader is destined to fail.

The hard truth is that, if you are going to remain relevant you have to give up control from where the organisation is run from your whims and desires to a structure that can run without you. When you do this well, in your absence lies the celebration of your legacy and relevance.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks