Does The End Really Justify The Means?

Tyrant 2Success can be defined in many different ways, sometimes we have clear goals and it can look like success is very easy to define. Either the project was delivered successfully on time or it wasn’t.

However, we need to look beyond that first level of success. I have worked with many managers who have successfully delivered projects, they did whatever was needed to ensure all criteria were met.

Unfortunately they have left a trail of bodies in their wakes, people where they have just ran over them because they were in their way, or team members who just couldn’t keep up and ended up burnt out. I have even run projects that way myself in my early days.

But the problem is not that project, the problem is the next project, or the one after that.

You can work people this way once, maybe twice, but once you establish a reputation like this it is very difficult to get people to want to work with you.

People like to be led, but they don’t want to be ridden, they may accept it for a short period when it comes down to the crunch, but this cannot be the only tool in your tool kit.

Often I have seen senior managers ignore the approach, claiming the ends justify the mean, promoting these managers, managers whom now nobody wants to work for.

In my last firm their was a great project manager, he always delivered, but the problem was nobody ever wanted to work with him. He was now becoming his own worst enemy.

For sustainable success we need to be able to take the people with us, just tone down our approach a little, be a little bit more people centric. Otherwise we end up killing the Golden Goose, because to be honest it’s our team that deliver the success, we are just one person, a small part of the team.

Maybe our ego’s don’t see it that way, maybe we believe that everything is down to us, that we could be successful with any team, so who cares if we burn this one out.

Eventually this catches up with, teams talk, people talk, and or reputations become common knowledge.

The higher we rise the more dependent on people we become, and on peoples good will. They will only give us that good will, is if they feel that we respect them, and will take care of them too.

This is the essence of the leader follower relationship.

I have tried to coach many of the “end justifies the means”¬†managers and often they are so blinded by their own success, they don’t see the limitations of their approach, they actually believe that they can continue like this, or they believe that this is the only way they can be successful.

I too felt this way, but I was fortunate to work for a boss who took me to one side and told me that as good as I thought I was, I was on a path that would ultimately lead nowhere.

Fortunately I took the advice, and started to take a much more people centric view. It started to be less about me and the goals, and more about us.

people centricInterestingly, although I changed my approach, the results were unaffected, we were still able to successfully deliver. The previous leave no prisoners approach which I thought had been the reason for success was just one approach, it just wasn’t the only approach.

The end doesn’t always justify the means, and sometimes we need to really see what the end is.

We might see the end as a project successfully delivered, but we need to look a bit further than that, we should see the end as our reputation, and how that looks.

If our reputation becomes damaged then maybe we might need to re-evaluate the means!

Have you ever been a boss like that who’s made the change, or have you ever worked for a boss like that, if so I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles