Can You Have Leadership Without Leaders?

August 22nd, 2012

When I started Data Key Communications in 1994 I attempted to create the “perfect company.”  Everything that I could see as a weakness associated with management and growing a successful company would be rectified and this new company would provide the highest levels of customer service and employee satisfaction possible.  And oh yes, this new company would be able to boast profitability and sales numbers that would never, ever be impacted by the economic conditions impacting others in our industry.

Now, looking back, I still want to achieve those benchmarks.  Today, however, I know that the effort to achieve those benchmarks is unending and all a part of entrepreneurship.   One of those beliefs, borne out of my inexperience was the hope that with the elimination of traditional workplace hierarchies, would come a roster of employees who would take ownership of their work and accomplish so much more than what was typically possible, all because of a very unique work environment.

I recently read about a study conducted by the business schools at Columbia University, Northwestern and the University of Queensland, Australia.  They found that teams tend to be more productive when there are clearly defined leaders and followers.  They learned that without a very clearly spelled out hierarchy, a team of employees will become distracted by the temptation to dominate in power struggle.

This study made me think about the various types of work place teams and how we as employers are best able to meet our customers’ needs when we employ a mix of personality types.

Given the fact that September is Service Tech month I wonder about the personality mix of your service department.  Is it working?  What are the challenges when there are lots of chiefs and no followers?  How do you measure a successful service department manager?  What characteristics do you look for when grooming the next-gen service department manager? And how do you introduce a new leader to a team of veterans who have made your service department work for decades?