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The Mistakes We Make

Leadership guru Peter Drucker once said, “Only three things come naturally to all organisations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” 

In this blog post, we will delve into Drucker’s insight and explore the natural but unhealthy defaults that organisations tend to fall into when we don’t think intentionally about how we lead. By understanding these defaults, proactive leaders can provide clarity and synergy to their teams.

Drucker’s insight resonates with the old adage: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Leaders play a crucial role in guiding and directing their teams, ensuring a clear path towards achieving goals. By actively planning and strategising, leaders can prevent the defaults that hinder organisational success and instead set people up for success.

Let’s explore the three natural but unhealthy defaults Drucker identifies:

1 Friction

Have you ever experienced the looming feeling of coming to work in an environment rife with gossip, selfish agendas, and sloppy habits? Yeah, those are each forms of friction.

Friction is often present in organisations because we don’t have a leader who can help us hold courageous conversations which help to nip deteriorating talk in the bud. Sadly, friction is inevitable without healthy leadership.

2 Confusion

Confusion is present when you hear people saying they don’t know what is going on, and if they do, they don’t know why it is going on.

Decisions seem a mystery, and people are not sure just what direction they should go in. There is no clear wider vision and people don’t know where to direct their extra energy, or what would be helpful.

Confusion can stem from many things: lack of communication, lack of vision, unclear goals or KPIs, or perhaps some decisions have been made that the leader forgot to convey.

3 Underperformance

You know when people say “bring your whole self to work?” Well the reality is that we are all potentially many different selves. There is our bored, disengaged self, preoccupied self, or our anxious even our fearful self. None of them sees us produce our best.

Yet, from creative agencies to Fortune 500 companies, organisations must perform. People desire to be a part of a place that is going somewhere and bring their best self to it. 

What do Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have in common? Well outside of major feats in each of their respective careers and fields – they each were notorious for driving teammates and collaborators to their threshold. Jobs, Jordan, and Kobe believed in challenging others to a higher standard for the sake of great performance. 

“As a leader of a team it’s your responsibility to elevate the rest of the team….you have to get people to a space where they wake up every morning driven to be the best version of themselves,”

Kobe Bryant 

While we don’t advocate for the means or character each of these individuals used – there is some method to their madness. Many of their teammates and coworkers have stated that they would not trade working with these individuals for the world because they made them, both as individuals and as a collective, better. 

Great leaders enable others to step up, and do the best we can. 

If the leader or leaders you work with tick all these boxes, you can indeed be grateful – and do tell them that you appreciate what they do (for there are many times when leadership is a lonely and difficult road, and leaders also need encouragement). 

But if not, ask yourself what you can do today to be part of the solution rather than simply add to the friction, confusion and underperformance.