Oz: Management By Intimidation

Oz08Wizard of Oz: [booming voice] And you, Scarecrow, have the effrontery to ask for a brain, you billowing bale of bovine fodder !

Scarecrow: Y-Yes… Yes, Your Honor… I mean, Your Excellency… I-I mean, Your Wizardry.

Wizard of Oz: [booming] Enough!

Wizard of Oz: [in a booming voice] Step forward, Tin Man!

Tin Woodsman: [terrified, steps forward] Ohhhh!

Wizard of Oz: [still in a booming voice] You DARE to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!

Wizard of Oz: Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz. I said come back tomorrow.

Wizard of Oz: You people should consider yourselves lucky that I’m granting you an audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now.

I’m sure most of remember this scene. The initial encounter with the Wizard was one filled with smoke, fire, booming voices, and downright terror. Now, to be honest, I have to admit that on the surface it was a spectacular technical display. And if you have seen the recent Disney release “Oz The Great and Powerful” you understand its relevance. Initially, there was a reason and a purpose for this act of intimidation. This act was designed to keep the wicked witches at bay in order to safeguard the Emerald City.

But the problem was that the original purpose was no longer valid given the current situation. Dorothy and her companions had traveled great distances to seek the Wizard’s counsel and help. They were friends not enemies. They were not a threat to his position. Rather, they would prove to be tremendous allies. But instead of concern they were greeted with insults and threats. Instead of receiving support they were threatened. The message to these 4 desperate companions was that their presence was an inconvenience and that their requests carried no weight with the Wizard. Impressive? Yes. Intimidating? Yes. But downright pointless. In the end Toto pulled back the curtain and revealed the Wizard’s true identity, exposing him to be little more than an elderly, carnival con man.

Unfortunately, those who fall under the heading of “misfit” managers too often view intimidation as an effective leadership style. Because they have been granted a measure of authority they use it as a means of pressuring and even manipulating employees. The words might not ever be actually said but the philosophy is continually conveyed. “Do it or we can find someone else who will… Anyone can be replaced… Just do what you’re told… If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you…” Instead of leading by example they communicate a message of “do what I say” rather than do what I do. They gladly embrace favoritism. They insult. They belittle. They threaten. They bully.  Words of caution or conflicting opinions are neither welcomed nor appreciated. Like the queen of hearts their philosophy can be summed up as, “All ways are my ways.” You don’t ask questions. You don’t raise concerns. And you certainly don’t do anything that would appeared to be construed as a challenge to their authority.

The end result of such leadership is employee alienation and the isolation of  the company’s most valuable resource. Don’t forget, an effective and efficient organization is built on the foundation of a sound and healthy employee base. (Note, I didn’t say that it was built on their backs. Sorry, Pharoah, this isn’t ancient Egypt.) When misfit managers traffic in intimidation they forfeit the valuable ideas and contributions that could potentially arise from those closest to the product and ultimate end-user. Employees have much to add to a company’s success but an atmosphere that belittles their thoughts and communicates little worth only serves to silence their input.

In time Dorothy and her friends would accomplish the very thing the Wizard could not do on his own. They defeated the wicked witch. Had it not been for their contributions he would have remained in hiding behind his curtain for the rest of his life. The city’s freedom was realized when they worked together as a team. How many organizations have settled for less than their full potential because leadership is afraid to solicit the opinions and ideas of others in the company? Rather than asking for help, misfit managers allow their own insecurities and fears to drive their leadership style. Much like the Wizard they might very well have garnered everyone’s fear but they have merited no one’s respect. They are sitting on the throne but the throne room is empty. They are the leader but no one if following. Such a company will never know success.

Some examples are meant to inspire. Others are meant to instruct. I hope it’s clear to all of us that the Wizard’s practice of intimidation is not one that we want to imitate. We gain nothing when we promote an atmosphere of fear. Rather, the healthy Kingdom (i.e., company) is one in which people are valued and their opinions are welcomed. Stop intimidating those who work for you. Instead, open the doors, let down the false bravado that is really nothing more than a front for your own fears, and link arms with those who seek to help. Together, there is no limit to that which we can accomplish.