Actually, it works on a limited basis, and the trick is knowing when and why you should grab the reins and give orders. Even servant-leaders have to command people during a crisis because, well, they're the leaders and they hold the expertise.
It may also work when there's conflict between people, and you have to step in, drop the hammer, and stop the mud-flinging because nobody else will or is capable.
And it may really be necessary when a decision carries so much weight that it's too risky for anyone else to pull the trigger. It's "your call" in the end.
The Achilles' heel of top-down leadership.
But if you subscribe to the notion that establishing power over, and control of, your people and processes is the way to go in building your culture, I ask you to reconsider.
Top-down bosses are notorious for killing intrinsic motivation. And good-employees-turned-order-takers tend not to exercise one of their better traits -- the one bosses typically ask about in interviews -- that of being a self-starter.
Employees who don't self-start, make decisions on their own, give input, get feedback, and grow as people with purpose, eventually suffocate under micro-management and lose the will to contribute meaningfully. Exit, stage left.
This means that at some point, leaders should get out of the way and not interfere with the people in the trenches doing the work, he says.
Companies with the highest employee engagement have the best financial performance, even in tough economic times, says Gallup. Those companies are the ones with the least power and control over their tribes.
While top-down leadership is still the norm, here are four things the best of leaders would never do:
1. Talk in "I" rather than "we" language.
For example: "I want this done like this... I need you to do this... I have to make this happen..."
The "I" lingo is a classic way of trying to control while communicating to employees that they are there to serve you, and that you are not there for them or their needs.
2. Shut down feedback.
One of the toughest tests for the top-down leader, it takes humility and this most forgotten leadership skill to be open to feedback.
Great leaders ask peers and respected high-performers the tough question, "How am I doing as a leader?" And then they listen. They are interested in receiving honest feedback so they can grow further.
3. Work by the motto "just win, baby."
Sure, every good leader needs to celebrate pulling off seemingly impossible wins. But if you lead with a win-at-all-costs agenda, you may have already lost respect, created silos, and alienated important people.
The better choice of great leaders: brainstorm solutions that add value and benefit the whole team, not just those that support your own ego and desire to come out on top.
Top-down leaders driven by hubris have a hard time detaching from their own inner-voices to consider other voices, because they're always right.
Great leaders are present and in the moment. They don't need to talk over others to get their point across. To quote Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen's CEO, Cheryl Bachelder,
The biggest distinction of a leader who serves others versus themselves is the ability to listen. When you listen, you hear peoples' objections, anxieties, and fears -- and you also hear the solutions.
What examples have you seen of ways to overcome destructive, control-based leadership behaviors? And how have new behaviors translated to improving your work or company? Share in the comments, or subscribe below and lets get acquainted.