Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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The 'Hyper intelligent' Bosses!

Intelligence is a good attribute of an efficient boss. If the boss is exceptionally brilliant in conceptualization, planning and implementation, that would be a boon for the organization. But when the intelligence is coupled with obstinacy and rigidity, then it would turn counterproductive.

Hussain leads about 400 managers in his large company. He believes that his intellectual acuity is a lot more superior to every other person in the organisation at his level in organizational hierarchy and below. He believes only in top-down approach and never encourages any suggestions from below. He justifies his action stating that what he does is in the best interest of the organization.

If the sole aim of bosses like Hussain is to maximize benefits for the organization without any focus on the development and welfare of the team, there will be resentment from the team. The team members would regard him as too shrewd and manipulative.

It is written in Tao TeChing as follows:

‘It is hard to lead
When we try to be too clever.
Too much cleverness undermines group harmony.
Those who lead without such strategies
Bring blessing to all’

N R Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor and one of the founders of Infosys wrote the following* in his letter to shareholders:

“Many intelligent people possess a high ego and low patience to deal with people less capable than themselves. Leaders have to manage this anomaly very carefully, counsel these errant people from time to time, and allow them to operate as long as they do not become dysfunctional and start harming the organization. If they do cross the threshold, it takes courage to inform the individuals that their time in the organization is over and that they have to leave.”

Andrew Campbell and two other scholars analysed the question ‘Why good leaders make bad decisions’. They argued that important decisions made by intelligent, responsible people with the best information and intentions are sometimes hopelessly flawed. They found that some leaders were affected by three factors/biases: a) the presence of inappropriate self-interest, b) the presence of distorting attachments, and c) the presence of misleading memories.

Hyper-intelligent leaders have the tendency to stick on to their own judgments even when they are presented with a different view. Some are uncompromising in their beliefs and positions and are guided solely by their own past experiences. They are adamant in their views and not willing to change. They are stubborn as mules. They tend to justify that they are right when the mistakes and negative fallouts are pointed out. Even when it was ultimately proved from the outcome that they were wrong, the hyper-intelligent persons would find a number of intelligent reasons to attribute the failure to other factors.

The reason for the above is the feeling of superiority based on an excessive estimation of one’s intelligence coupled with an underestimation of the intelligence of people around. Because of this, the hyper-intelligent bosses tend to ridicule, intimidate, and ignore others.

There are bosses who take credit irrespective of the outcome of a particular action. They attribute their involvement for the success. When the action resulted in a failure they would say ‘I had warned that it would be a failure’. Rosabeth Moss Kanter who is the author of the book ‘Confidence’ called such behaviour of leaders the timidity of mediocrity.

If the people below the boss feel that their boss won’t listen to them even if they try to convince, what about the colleagues, the advisers or the bosses of the boss? Will the boss listen to them? Scholars Kelly and others have found in a study that as power increases the tendency to take advice decreases; even when that advice could help them to perform better or make better decisions. This phenomenon of egocentric discounting of advice is also highlighted by Yaniv. Bill Gates said: ‘Fear should guide you. I consider failure on a regular basis’.

Omniscient bosses are not assets, but liabilities for organizations which aim at nurturing their young leaders for better prospects for themselves and the organizations.

 Prescription for you, the boss

      It is important to understand that intelligence has nothing to do with the position in the hierarchy. Many times inputs from persons whom you rate as ‘less intelligent’ can lead to better outputs. A truly intelligent leader identifies, appreciates and taps the perceptiveness and intuitiveness of people around him. 

Precaution for you

Don’t feel intimidated by a hyper-intelligent boss. None can claim that he is omniscient. You must not lose confidence with the indifference and rejection of overconfident bosses. You keep contributing your best irrespective of his recognition.       

Precept for the Organization

        Organizations should establish practices that promote creative ideas and suggestions from below. The collective wisdom is far superior to the wisdom of an obstinate individual. Hyper-intelligence coupled with massive ego and rigidity can destroy an organization.

The signs of recovery

In an era of crowd sourcing, a leader who accepts and acknowledges views and creativity of the team will be respected for his social intelligence.

*For full references and to know more about the wrong bosses, read 'When the Boss is Wrong: Making and Unmaking of the Leader within you'

(c) Sibichen K Mathew    Views are personal        Comments welcome       
 sibi5555 (gmail)

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your observations that an over intelligent boss, who feels that he is always right and not open to ideas and discussions of subordinates, is a liability to the organisation. They are selfish and self-centered creatures, who will persue their own personal hidden agenda in the guise of achieving the objectives of the organisation. Such a person is always malcontent. He is not satisfied with the way things are, and complains a lot. He is unreasonable and difficult to deal with.Organisations headed by such leaders will surely fail and fall. The only way left for revival is to throw such wastrel out of the organisation.

    In our epics, history and in modern era, we have plenty of examples of such persons who do nothing positive with their life, making no use of their abilities or the opportunities that are offered to them. Everyone is aware the management by such leaders are always end in disaster. We can term them as 'disaster mongers'.

    Ravana, the most intelligent and valiant leader of his time, without heeding to the suggestions of vibhishana, drove the whole lanka
    to the disastrous end. The objective of ruling subjects by adhering to Raja dharma (or you can term it as Law ) got defeated, when he used his intelligence, arrogance and strength to meet his personal goal. He used all his powers to do adharma to meet his selfish ends, thereby doomed the whole society. The epic of mahabharatha is in no way different, except arrogant Duryodana replaced Ravana. The Hiranyakashupu is yet another example. Plenty of such leaders could be sourced from our great epics.

    From the pages of history we can identify such intelligent but arrogant leaders like Adolf hitler who used to say, 'If you win, you need not have to explain, & If you lose, you should not be there to explain!

    In any organisation, the leader who thinks that he knows everything, tries to dictate every situation by pulling down the collegues and subordinates to prove that all others are wrong, is destroying the entire team. This kind of disgruntled and frustrated "boss" who can't understand why the manager resists his "great ideas" feels that no one can meet his level of thinking and idea. Often the subordinates are so frustrated that they leave the organisations.

    Now a bit about dealing with such a "boss" who exhibits narcissistic traits. It is utmost importance to know what to do and what not to do, in order to keep a positive attitude and a constructive relationship. The advises listed by you are very much helpful in this regard. It is always, the natural temptation is to be angry and critical of such a boss. This is clearly the most destructive thing we can do with this kind of individual. We need to remember that it is more important to be effective than to be right, and about the things that are more important to reach the goals of the organisation. One simple tip that comes to my mind is to behave oneself with others with little scope for others to see us as the same narcissist as the "boss".

    M G Kodandaram


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