Scroll down, if you would be so kind.
Because that is absolutely my experience, and I know it from the other side. It has been my misfortune, some years ago, to have to work with a couple of people who were B players at best. I liked them personally, but was incapable of working with them, in the end. Not working for them, I’m speaking as a volunteer, although in one situation I was, ludicrously, seen as a threat.
The person in charge cannot personally oversee everything and has to delegate. However, the more you delegate, the more you lose control. Therefore, the people you delegate to are vital. If you have inferior people below you, that may be all right as long as you are not so busy that you can’t monitor what is going on, but in the long run you cannot do it all and still keep looking ahead.
It’s easy for me, so let’s get me out of the way, because it’s not about me. I’ve been a chairman a few times and what seems to me to be the most important thing is to do the job to the best of my ability (passing on as many tasks as I possibly can, because I’m bone idle and expert at nothing), to keep an eye open for someone to take over, to help them get going (either before or after I’d stood down) and, then, to let go and move on and not be missed. If it fell apart without me, that would be my bad management. Ideally, not only would I not be missed, but people would say “we thought Z was pretty good, but actually now it’s better, so she can’t have been all that.” And, even if I was secretly a bit downcast at that, it would be a good thing – and true anyway.
But I’m a volunteer anyway, and a determined amateur. I am referring to people who are paid to do their jobs. And, now I think of it, I’m actually thinking about three people, one of whom was very good, but ideally an excellent second in command, and two who were not quite up to it and afraid of being bettered by those beneath them.
The first coped by being extremely hands-on. Capable, liked and respected, he nevertheless didn’t take steps to build a really strong team and he didn’t have a clear and ambitious vision. He could keep things going, and build on what was there, but there were never going to be great improvements or innovations because he wasn’t able to step back far enough to see the horizon and what it could hold. However, he knew both his strengths and his limitations and was absolutely big enough to acknowledge them, and the time came when he stepped aside, having done a good job.
The other two were different cases entirely. In each situation, they portrayed themselves as strong leaders … but actually, the only way they knew how to lead was to have no competition. The trouble is, the previous leaders had been A players who had built up a strong team, so the incomer needed to destroy that to seem the strongest person. In one case, that meant that he became a bully – and, if he hadn’t been removed, all his staff would have left within a couple of years, instead of just a few of them – and in the other, he refused to delegate, insisting that everything be taken to him, that he attend and chair every single meeting, however minor, and that he would do all but those jobs he considered menial. In fact, he didn’t have either the time or the capability and it wasn’t long before things started to decline quite badly. If a few people, still enthusiastic, got together to come up with a new idea (and took it to him as a suggestion), he said that they were creating a ‘splinter group’ behind his back.
Neither of these people were personally disliked, certainly not by me, it’s just that they had neither the strength nor the confidence to let someone else shine. And when there was a success, they claimed the credit, even if it was little or nothing to do with them.