During our weekend in Paris we sat at a corner cafe and watched the Paris police close off the streets to allow a protest march to take place.
There was no warning just a policeman who walked into the middle of the street and stopped all traffic from entering the area. Chaos ensued as cars and buses had to try to change their route. The police eventually stretched a ribbon across the street to reinforce the closure. As we watched transfixed the policeman was constantly challenged by drivers who claimed they had to get through – probably because they were residents. The policeman started to let some through and others he refused – whilst many didn’t bother to ask. The situation was compounded by passing pedestrians who took it upon themselves to lift the ribbon to allow some drivers to get through whilst the policeman’s back was turned.
As ever my mind shifted into metaphor mode as it struck me that this is often how leaders can get things wrong.
- There was no explanation for the action being taken.
- No warning was given to allow people to change their route beforehand.
- The leader allowed some people to break the rules – but they were not invited to make that request – so it only benefitted some.
- The leader appeared to arbitrarily choose who could get through – this caused immense frustration for those who were not allowed.
- Observers – unaware of the reason for the rule (it might have been a bomb for all they knew) interfered and made their own decisons about how could get through.
- The leaders job became more and more difficult.
In leadership situations there often occasions when rules must be imposed for very good reasons – but the leaders fail to properly explain them; don’t explain any appeal process; have no consistency in application; and don’t publicise/explain the rules to those outwith the organisation.
I must try to remember this lesson!!!
Thanks, Don, a very effective metaphor, and well worth heeding.