Saying that one is “too nice” to hold someone accountable is a cop out. What we really mean is that one has not yet found an effective way to hold people accountable without acting in a dictatorial way. It sets up a false dichotomy of nice / no-accountability vs mean / accountability. This is definitely a false dilemma.
If someone has this false either-or mindset between nice vs no-accountability and they want to partner with or hire leaders, they’ll seek out those who are “tough on others.” They think they want someone who “can get people moving” even if rough or even a little brutal about it.
Unwittingly, they hire a manager with a dictatorial management style. In playground speak, they hired a bully. Bullying behavior is poison to the longterm growth and well-being of any group.
Is dictatorial behavior OK as long as things get done? No. Employee turnover will be high and you’ll never know why. People will sense the oppressive culture and word gets around so people won’t join you in the first place.
So, it’s not just about getting things done. Being a leader is about empowering others to contribute to your group’s mission. Besides making money, your mission is your group’s reason for existing.
In Agile speak, you want passionate leaders as opposed to bullying managers. Don’t compromise on this! It might be extremely hard to change the culture once it gets grown in too deep.
As revealed in “Why Do Bad Leaders Always Seem to Win?”, it’s hard to convince managers to not act in a dictatorial style since we’re so used to giving them a “free ride.” A strong vertical mindset may have set up a reward system to encourage dictatorial management styles. At the expense of a group or organization, bullying can be rewarding to the person being a bully. Someone seeking power and who gets things done by bullying puts emphasis on a vertical flow of power through strength. Such managers will set up metrics to reflect efficiency and control over all else.
Your metrics will never reveal bullying that is happening in your leadership team. It’s hard to expose bullying behavior since things seem efficient and predictable. As beautifully expressed in the Why Do Managers Hate Agile? article:
Its values are efficiency and predictability. The key to succeeding in this world is tight control.
What you really want are people that are passionate about what they do. There’s a whole other article about Debunking Myths About Worker Passion that we won’t repeat here, but I recommend you read it. Suffice it to say, you want to foster a culture of empowerment, innovation and creativity.
Taking some concepts from several sources such as the late Roger Mellott (author of Stress Management for Professionals), Stephen Covey (efficient vs effective leadership), and Agile Leadership concepts, it is possible to hold people accountable in such a way as to make a relationship stronger and less stressful as opposed to oppressive.
Since this article is long enough, we won’t go into details about how to find and be an effective leader. However, I strongly suggest reading “Why Do Managers Hate Agile?” in full, seek out leaders instead of power hungry managers, and never stop promoting a culture that values leadership skills.