The Obama bottom-line: don’t forget who signs your paycheck

Posted June 24, 2010 in Latest News & Insights

President Obama pulled the trigger yesterday on Gen. Stanley McChrystal who shot off his mouth in Rolling Stone magazine and learned another management truism “everyone’s replaceable.”

General McChrystal, by all accounts, had a reputation for being a maverick, who seemed to enjoy pushing the envelope.  Apparently, he pushed this one too far with his flippant remarks to Rolling Stone and, obvious encouragement of less than respectful behaviours amongst his circle (re: the reference to Joe Biden / Bite me by his aide).

One of the dangers that comes with being successful is that you start believing your own hype and fall under the false impression that you are irreplaceable.

There’s also a lesson here in how quickly Obama pulled the trigger to deal with McChrystal’s insubordination.  Despite critics shrieking that he was critical to the Afghan mission, the short-term pain of making the replacement will likely be much easier to deal with for Obama than the long-term pain in the a** of a key player who’s not happy with the direction your “bus” is going.

Obviously, there’s a fine line for leaders between encouraging divergent points of view and dissent with allowing people to undermine and sabotage your efforts.  Obama’s quick and clear stand on the issue send an instant message that it’s o.k. to disagree in private, but in public, you gotta support the boss.  If you don’t take strong stands on these types of behaviours, you’re sending the message that it will be tolerated which is never good. 

So, who are you tolerating on your team that you shouldn’t be?

For all you superstars out there who are reading this post and thinking, “that could never happen to me, I’m the only one that can do what I do”… make sure you’re getting the occasional reality check (start by picking up Marshall Goldsmith’s book What got you here, won’t get you there).  You don’t want to inadvertently choke on your own hype.  The final truism of work may be: what you know gets you hired, how you do it gets you fired.

Happy leading!


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