Working for a manager who is at the same or lower level of competence as you is anger producing, uninspiring, unproductive, frustrating, demoralizing and eventually leads to underemployment. If they are “Charismatic” it adds an irritant that only makes things worse.

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When the going gets tough…The tough default to their level of competence.

Below is a story from a company I consulted & coached the management team, Using a combination of Talent Pool Development + Mastering Organizational Complexity.

  How Charismatic but Incompetent Managerial-Leaders are Destructive Create Learning team building and leadershipPhoto Credit

Mark was the General Manager of sales. He received this role during a time when consumer demand was high and closing sales, to quote Mark’s boss Alan, “Was so easy a monkey could do it.” Mark oozed charisma; his staff went above and beyond to do their best work for him. He was a recognized salesman, as long as consumer demand was high. Liked by the companies customers and vendors, and they were happy to have him visit and treat them to golf and dinners.

Mark’s charisma appeared to work well during the high consumer demand. The orders and sales kept coming in, and everyone was happy.

Upon interviewing several of Mark’s staff, some did mention that they knew his level of capability was equal to or lesser than their own, they were captivated by his personality and wanted to make him look good.

Mark’s charisma was tested with a rapid decrease in customer demand and increased competition for their customers. Mark’s inability to see multiple plans, challenges, opportunities, and lacking the ability to handle increased complexity to lead through this change meant that he was unable to execute the changes that are needed to sell to a different customer in a different environment.

The staff was aware of this problem, and they did all that they could to prevent his downfall. The effect of the workers’ support, for their charismatic but “too small” for the role leader, made things worse resulting in production problems. Mark’s sales team was under orders to Put pressure on existing customers to order more! With no regard to the customers need or desire for the work, this resulted in production problems. As the sales continued to drop and production pushed back Mark’s inability to keep control and adjust to the changes in the market became more and more apparent.

Mark resigned, and his job was given to another general manager who was known to be “big enough” for the role and gradually got sales back in order.

Mark was “too small” for the level of complexity needed to manage the sales team.  His challenges (while staff & his manager recognized it) were overlooked because, as they said “He was able to pump you up and believe he could do anything. His charisma was contagious, and he was on hell of a guy.”

Consulting and examining this with the company CEO, CFO, COO, and Sr. Human Resources, Mark was a great sales guy and was able to plan for work in stable and known environments. This role requires a different complexity-processing ability, someone that can examine multiple challenges.  Some challenges they have experienced, many they have never experienced and plan various strategies that are conditional upon each other, working with and thriving in rapid changes.

Mark was never able to tie together all the parts of his job, especially tie together sales with the work of production and other general managers in the company he was only able to focus on sales. His focus on sales illustrates how a charismatic and not competent enough leader is always counter-productive in the long term.

If Mark had not been so strongly supported by his staff and others, the CEO might have been able to make the necessary role change, before profit and people were lost.

What do you think?

Are you currently enabling a charismatic but not competent enough manager? What can be done to create a culture where this does not happen?

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