What Every Leader Can Learn From Vladimir Putin

Just to be clear, I’m not a fan of tyranny and kleptocracy!

And yet, there’s something to be learned from this man and his recent moves in the Ukraine, whether you run a team of 5 or 50 or even 146 million like old Putin does.

It’s first instructive to note that he has made some very serious miscalculations.  Among them:

  1. The Russian army is strong and competent
  2.  The Ukrainian people will roll over and offer only mild resistance
  3.  It will all be over in a few days
  4. The Russian population will be strong supporters and this will enhance his personal image of strength
  5. China will be in his corner cheering him on
  6. Since Western Europe needs Russian oil, they’ll put up and shut up
  7.  The rest of the Western countries are degenerate and weak and will turn a blind eye to the invasion

All of these key pillars that this invasion was predicated on have turned out to be wrong.

So how can a guy with limitless money and intelligence services and years to think it through get all of this so wrong?

Here’s the recipe to set the stage so you too can get everything wrong and make a botch of your strategy:

Make it not okay for your team to disagree

Putin has sent a strong message to people around him that disagreement gets punished.  People who disagree are silenced and go to prison.

Do you think for a minute that his top generals want to be the ones to say, “I’m out, I don’t think this is going to work!”  NO!

The same can happen to you.  How do you treat staff members who have a different viewpoint?  You should thank them, and you should encourage disagreement.  When everyone agrees, you know a few people are lying, or at least staying quiet to keep the peace.

Believe your own press

I have a friend and client who has seen dramatic growth in the business.  I attended an event where he was welcoming new members, and they treated him like a rock star.  They crowded around him, all of them drawn to what they perceive to be his power and magnetism.

After, we went for a walk and I said, “It’s useful because you can get a lot more done more easily now, but just remember that it’s all BS.”  He laughed.

However far you drive, you’re always the same distance from the ditch.

You’re still the same you.  Who you  really are is who you are when you’re alone and nobody’s watching.

Get good and isolated

If you really want to botch things, make sure you surround yourself with people who always agree.  It’s especially good when they flatter you and tell you how great you are.

To remedy this, talk to people at all levels of your organization.  Talk to your customers, to your vendors, to your newest summer hire, to people who do your deliveries.  Don’t get isolated!

The problem with tyrannical/authoritarian leadership

By definition, a tyrant has to be isolated because of a unique mix of arrogance and fear.  Arrogance that they know better than anyone else, and fear that someone will rise up to knock them off their perch.  Same thing happens in business all the time.

So, be accessible. Get to know people all over your organization.  Look for (and reward) people who bring bad news. Don’t get out of touch.

When the world outside is changing faster than the world inside your head, you’re in trouble!

Trevor head shot in office 1

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at professionalleadershipinstitute.com https://professionalleadershipinstitute.com/

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068

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