I had beers for the holidays with some data center friends last night. We had fun chatting about all kinds of topics. One guy is lucky to have executives who will listen to the data center issues. One of the other guys is unlucky with management who doesn’t understand the data center. The gal is watching craziness at the executive level at another company as they save costs. My own situation at big companies is long gone. My past problem at big companies is I was focused on doing the right thing in spite of management.
Just yesterday I was reading this white paper on Speaking Truth to Power and many points are made that resonated.
The truth that makes men free is for the most part
the truth which men prefer not to hear.
--Herbert Agar, A Time for Greatness (1942)
The author writes about an authority power dominated company (Cowles Media) vs. an open challenge of authority’s decisions (FedEx) and summarizes with...
The lesson I drew from these examples nearly three decades ago was that mangers in companies with healthy cultures were constantly willing to rethink even their most basic assumptions through a process of constructive dissent.
Many companies have the belief the CEO should always be the authority with power.
thanks to the much-publicized behavior of imperial CEOs in the 1990s, a cultural expectation has been created that leaders need to be decisive, tough, take-charge men who quickly fire those who are not "team-players." Imagine the courage it would take to tell a Jack Welch, a Scott McNeely, an Andy Grove, or a Larry Ellison news he didn't want to hear? Even in a book by fawning admirers, Jack Welch came across as a modern-day Attila when GE mangers dared to question him. Dissenters were berated, insulted, and abused: "According to former employees, Welch conducts meetings so aggressively that people tremble. He attacks almost physically with his intellect-criticizing, demeaning, ridiculing, humiliating." One humiliated former GE-executive who had been publicly dressed down by Welch for daring to question his boss admitted to the moderator of an Aspen Institute seminar in the early 1990s that Welch's furious tirade "caused me to soil my pants."
The white paper is a long read, but will get you thinking about the challenges of Speaking Truth to those in Power.