And you thought it was just you.
New research confirms that the more power(*) a manager or leader has, the more likely they are to ignore advice.
To some extent this makes sense. I mean, being rewarded with powerful positions means you must be doing something right, right? And if you’re doing something right, why not trust yourself and your decisions?
We can all see the fallacy in this logic taken too far. While trusting yourself is a good leadership skill and facilitates decisiveness, it can also contribute to the ego-centric leader’s sense of infallibility. This leads to all kinds of bad stuff, including bully bosses and just plain jerks.
Why It’s Not Just About Them
Here’s why you should care.
The price paid for these powerful people who ignore advice shows up in shareholder value. The Corporate Executive Board analyzed data over a ten year period and input from over 300,000 employees while studying something similar to powerful bosses willful ignorance. Their study showed that bosses and companies that didn’t ignore input and actually stimulated an open communications environment performed 5.8% better on average than those that didn’t. Bosses who ignore input or actively run around shooting messengers just aren’t as innovative and don’t produce as much for their shareholders.
This finding is reinforced by my own study of people’s experiences in speaking up to bosses and other powerful people. Turns out almost 50% of the 155 people I surveyed withhold their input from bosses most of the time.
Think of all those good ideas dying unspoken. This is too bad for the company, but it’s also too bad for you if you’re one of the ones staying silent. 72% of the respondents in my survey reported getting career advancement opportunities when they did speak up and managed to get the boss to listen. I know from personal experience, research and client work that when you know how to speak up effectively, you can definitely be part of the 72% who get ahead (learn more).
Why Not Take The Ignorance Perk?
But why work so hard? Maybe ignoring people is a way to get ahead? Um… maybe. I mean, it does seem to work for some of them. But then again, think how the mighty are falling these days (Ed Whitacre/GM, Tony Hayward/BP, Jon Corzine/MF Global). I can guarantee you that all these individuals had some right-thinking people in their contingent trying to save them from themselves. Ignoring the good counsel of others – and your own voice of conscious – is a risky business and the higher you go the farther you have to fall.
And if the research is right, a whole bunch of powerful people are out there risking a lot right now. Just think about how competitive you’ll be if you succeed by listening to the wisdom of others, adding it to the power of your own wisdom. Getting ahead and staying there is risky enough without taking this kind of stupidity risk, isn’t it?
So you want pass up the ignorance perk and choose to get ahead? Here’s a little executive coaching on what you can do:
- work on yourself to remain open to new ideas while you move up the ranks;
- mentor those below you not to let success shut them off to others’ input; and
- speak your truth to your own bosses, even if they don’t want to listen.
*”Power” in the context of this article, I believe, refers to what I call “external power.” External power – the authority to manipulate external resources – if fundamentally different than the ability to manipulate internal resources (watch the video on this page).
Note: I’m getting ready to launch a new website/blog on women’s leadership in the new year. I plan to continue blogging here on corporate culture, change management and leadership but I’m scaling back here to a few posts a month. If you want to receive an announcement of the new site launch, sign up for a launch announcement here or follow InPower Women on Facebook or LinkedIn, orTheWomanEffect on Twitter.