Leadership and the dangers of false perceptions
Prime the pump
December 19, 2023
Leadership and the dangers of false perceptions

Some leaders do not appreciate the value of honest feedback. They assume people are supportive of them when no one challenges them, and everyone is seemingly compliant to their directing. Most leaders in this category are autocratic and have an all or nothing mindset, i.e., if you do not agree with me all the time, you are against me. They foster an environment where members who are afraid to be branded are muted, while those who dare to have a voice are considered disloyal and rebellious. However, a great leader would rather have one person in his corner who helps him to reframe his thoughts, than to be surrounded by a crowd who would see him heading to ruin and do not alert him.

Welcome back to our series on ‘The perils of false perceptions.’ This week, our focus on ‘Leadership and the dangerous of false perceptions.’

Ask anyone for traits of a good leader and you can bet your dollar that confidence will be among the top five to ten traits. Almost everyone would agree that confidence is necessary to effectively influence and direct a team. However, what happens when leaders become so confident that it impairs their ability to lead effectively?

A few weeks ago, when we were looking at the five levels of leadership, reference was made briefly to the legendary leader Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company. He was known as a successful leader who was persistent, hard working and for his innovativeness. I think it is fair to say that Henry Ford was a man unto himself. He answered only to himself. He valued only his ideas, his thoughts, his perceptions.

Prior to October 1, 1908, when the first Model T car rolled out, only the rich could have afforded motor vehicles. However, Henry Ford’s Model T revolutionized transportation and in 12 years Ford had sold four million dollars of the Model T. Twenty-five years later, Henry Ford was America’s second billionaire after John Rockefeller. His leadership and vision coupled with his unmatched persistence and diligence made him successful.

However, success was not permanent for Henry Ford, as a matter of fact, his failure was as remarkable as was his success. As time went by, trends started emerging that threatened Ford’s Model T power, but Ford perceived that no one was a smart as him, as innovative as him, he assumed that once he continued to manufacture the Model T it would continue to sell.

As Americans’ wealth grew, vehicle novelty began to change. Having a vehicle was no longer just a means of transportation; the type of vehicle people owned was linked to their status. Henry Ford was told to start manufacturing for the rich, but he refused. Although consumers’ desires and expectations were changing, Ford’s confidence and ego created a blind spot and limited his ability to be a visionary.

While Henry Ford was playing ‘know it all’, General Motors was listening to feedback and responding to them. They started introducing annual models and changes to their vehicles. However, when Ford’s sales team told him that the Model T sales were declining and unless they made suggested changes, they would go out of business, Ford accredited the decline in sales to the incompetence of the sales department. A senior executive prepared a situational analysis of the company and presented it to Ford but instead of analyzing the data, Ford fired the executive. Next, Ford decided to shut down the plant for an entire year to retool, leaving General Motor’s with no competition and giving room for Chrysler to enter the market.

Without realizing it, Ford had single handedly knocked his company out off the chart as the market leader in motor vehicles.

In an article titled “Leadership and the Danger of False Perception”, Dennis Gilbert said “Leaders who are so locked in and determined (confident) of a situation or circumstance that they fail to see options or consider alternative directions sometimes make the worst decisions.” Gilbert went on to say “The biggest problem with all of this is when you believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong. Or worse, you ask some of your friends or direct reports and they all tell you what you want to hear, but not what the truth is.”

Source: Lessons for leaders: Henry Ford – FAILURE story & bad leadership (newageleadership.com)


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