There are a plethora of Leadership books in print, and more are invading the marketplace constantly. Ultimately Leadership remains a statistical algorithm and great leaders understand the algorithm and how to manage it properly.
In essence, the algorithm contains 20% of positive people who will embrace ideas follow instructions with unconditional commitment. At the other end of the algorithm is another 20% of negative people who oppose all ideas. In between is that 60% critical mass that can sway in either direction.
It is a statistical algorithm, and it exists in all groups although in some (typically larger) groups is the demographic more visible.
To be classified as a Leader you need followers. These followers can be assigned to you through a job assignment, promotion or your views and beliefs. As a Leader, you will inherit the statistical algorithm and your statistical profile may alter but the baseline metric will remain the same.
So ultimately every group has in essence 2 leaders: the one that is leading the positive side of moving forward and the negative leader who can be very vocal or the silent saboteur of progress. Often your Negative Leader can also be your organization’s Spiritual Leader - not in a religious sense, but that individual that everyone informally gravitates to for message clarification and endorsement. The fact remains that on both sides you have strong leaders.
The battleground becomes how as a leader you enlist that 60% critical mass that sits in the middle. Remember you will never win over that negative 20% it will always exist … because Leadership is a Statistical algorithm. But here is where all of the leading publications provide the fodder to engulf that 60% (not 80% since that is statistically impossible). So we know that 20% will follow through with unconditional commitment but we need to reach through to engulf as much of the 60% that we can, but first, let us eliminate a few myths. Jettison the Negative Leaders! Yes, sounds good in theory but leadership is a statistical algorithm and what you jettison will be statistically replaced so sometimes it is better to have the devil that you know than dealing with the devil you do not know. A better approach is to formulate a box around your known negative group in such a manner that they can create only minimal damage or their activities can be constantly monitored and their actions quickly curtailed.
The most important aspect regarding negative contingent is to void them of any attention. Do not impose Policies, Rules and Procedures that specifically target potential actions coming from your negative contingent. This form of attention gives them the fuel they crave to substantiate their position and could raise questions in that 60% that perhaps they may be right.
The 60% will always be sitting on the fence and can sway constantly. Your requests need to constantly address what is of value to them: "what's in it for me". It could be easier, simpler tasks which speak to their aspirations and beliefs. It is a constant battleground.
Leaders seem to think that all people have the same capability towards passion and commitment which is ultimately and often classified as commitment. Wrong !!! Many people, especially within that 60%, only remain committed until quitting time and not one second more. Many people are just showing up to do the task assigned, they do not want to think, they have no aspirations for promotion. They just want to fulfill their obligation and turn their "Gift of Time" to matters that are closer to their hearts. This could be family, sports or other external activities.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with these people and we do need them within our organizations to keep the wheels and gears running our organization. However, in exchange for their “Gift of Time” we need to create a very disciplined professional environment where their contributions can be predicted with reliability. I tend to title this “Distributed Accountability” or at Toyota where they spend an inordinate amount of time developing processes where “ordinary people can create incredible results” instead of depending on “incredible people delivering ordinary results.”
Fuel the Positive 20% to capture the middle 60%.
I always take the approach and attitude of an Adult-to-Adult environment. I despise the need to take attendance in a formal manner for example. People are raising kids, paying for housing and many other obligations so surely, they can show up to work on time. After that, it is my obligation to properly cherish their "Gift of Time" while being within my area of responsibility. This where strong Visual Management Processes become so important and also knowing that all people are competitive engaged or not. They need a way to measure success and if you don’t give them something they will create one by themselves and it will definitely not be as aggressive as you would like.
Leadership is a Statistical Algorithm and hence it can be measured and calculated. I recall vividly earlier in my career where our President hosted a monthly Birthday Club session. During this session, employees could ask unfiltered questions, clarification about anything company. After attending one meeting where the employees spent 3 hours complaining about the chef putting too many onions in the salad I mentioned that I thought attending this session was a waste of time. Our President responded with: "if the Negative demographic has only the onions in the salad to complain about the I guess we are doing a pretty good job in Leadership”. AMEN!
A similar lesson learned from my father when he was still an active sailor. He told me my boat will never sail using a committee format because then we will never leave and most likely never get to our desired destination. Everyone has opinions and I accept them all as input but ultimately the direction of the ship is my sole responsibility.
Ultimately Leadership will always remain a statistical algorithm and noise will always emulate from the negative. However, what kind and the volume of the noise will be the indicator of your capture of the middle 60%.
As a Leader understand the Statistical Algorithm and keep doing your math.