A July 4th Lesson on the Consequences of Poor Leadership

What happens when there isn’t a strong connection between a leader and those he or she leads? All kinds of “costly”. Nothing illustrates this point better than Schoolhouse Rock’s edutainment video on the Boston Tea Party.

A growing perception in the colonies that England and the King …

  • didn’t have their best interests at heart,
  • only saw them as a means to generate wealth for England,
  • didn’t care about them as fledgling British Colonies … or as human beings,

lead to a rebellion that changed the course of history.

Remember Schoolhouse Rock? I used to love that after-school cartoon. I always wished we had a Canadian version. As you watch this cartoon, think about what you’ve seen when there’s a great divide between company leadership in the ivory tower, looking at Salaries, Wages and Employee Benefits as line items on a Cash Position Statement, and the people on the shop floor, generating the income.

Catchy, isn’t it? Yes, you will curse me later today when you’re whistling and bobbing your head around.

In a nutshell, England had a formula and, at the time, it had made them incredibly wealthy. Take over land, send your teams to mine, farm and enslave its resources and send the profits to England … rewarding those who brought the profits in just enough to keep them bringing in profits. More land, more profits. If there’s unrest, send troops. Work them harder. Make it very clear that unrest directed up equals pain and suffering coming down. Every colonist should be happy to have the opportunity to create new lives in a new land … and should pay (and pay, and pay) for the privilege.

It’s a little like the manager who says “Our workers? Unhappy? They are lucky to have jobs at all.”

England wasn’t interested in the lives of those doing the work. In fact, the less they knew, the better. Horror stories of mistreatment of slaves, terrible behaviour of these “managers”, and the suffering of the average colonist, filtered back to England and landed on deaf ears. Any hint of unrest was met autocratically by harsher taxes and a greater seize on control, rather than any kind of true leadership to benefit all.

Of course, we know the outcome.

How connected are you to the people who generate your income? Do you expect a great deal from them, yet pay them just enough to continue bringing you profits? Do you ever see Salaries, Wages and Employee Benefits on the Income Statement and ask “How can we trim these costs?”

A Summer Challenge for you:  Connect with each of your staff members, no matter what position or seniority. Look into their eyes. Appreciate them for the hard work they do. It will not only change your conversations about the Income Statement … it’ll change the Income Statement!