A farmer has a successful farm with free-range chickens producing thousands of eggs. A fox walks into the hen house and begins to feed the chickens every morning without fail. Is the fox really contributing to the welfare of the farmer, or the chickens?
In this case the leader has established a thriving organizational culture. Unknown to the leader, the fox is hijacking it. An organization’s success results from its culture creating value that the market rewards. But once any culture is established and success is recognized, the leader is responsible for protecting its culture for the sake of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the leader has to fend off attacks, both internally and externally. Despite many name and profiles, hijackers infiltrate organizations to snatch control and influence from the leader. Before a leader can defend his culture, and consequently the welfare of his stakeholders, he needs to be able to identify the hijackers that will attack.
1. Wolves – They prowl in the organization looking to devour unsuspecting followers. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, these individuals appear to fit in with the organization’s culture. But, their only goal is their own survival by destroying the organization one individual at a time.
2. Free Riders – They attach themselves once the leader establishes a functional and productive culture. Their survival relies on being near the action to accept the rewards while not contributing. When undetected they breed resentment among followers.
3. Assassins – They infiltrate the organization with the intention of killing the organization’s culture. Whether its jealousy or selfish pride, they want to elevate themselves by being responsible for ruining the leaders’ successful culture.
4. Bureaucrats – They want to feed off the organization’s success forever. They will find the rule to interrupt any innovation and progress. A contribution from the bureaucrat is specifically to sustain the status quo and in turn, justify their mediocrity.
Each hijacker has their own particular power and profile. To combat them a leader must actively stay engaged with the community of performers that is established. Simple fundamentals like quarterly informal reviews, in addition to annual formal reviews which include honest feedback, will keep leaders connected to the team’s temperament and performance. Effective leadership requires inclusive influence. Followers don’t perform simply because they are told. They perform because the effective leader has communicated that performance is for all their mutual best benefit.
In continuing to feed the culture, the leader must intentionally and consistently advocate knowledge sharing and empowerment as essential to the culture. A hijacker’s voice only gets traction in the leader’s silence. Finally, a key part of leadership is making the hard decisions. If hijackers are high performance, but destroying the culture through their nefarious devices then they need to be coached toward productive behaviors. If their cultural contribution does not improve then discipline, reassignment, and separation have to be the progressive steps. But, what if the hijacker is a top performer? Then accurately examine their contribution. Is it worth keeping a high performer who is robbing your organization’s productivity, or worse yet stealing the organization that you built?
Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond