A day ago I posted a clip from Glengarry Glen Ross, and promised to comment on the “leadership skills” displayed therein.

The rudeness and ad hominem attacks are terrible, and are almost always out of place and self-defeating.  The “wake-up call” nature of the address though, is sometimes justified.

Every management manual will tell you otherwise, and you do need to make sure you’re not harassing (or perceived as harassing), but sometimes people need a jolt.  They need to be brought back to earth and given some hard truths.  Group-think often insulates group members from reality; everyone’s so busy agreeing, accommodating, commiserating, compromising and back-slapping that they miss what’s really going on.

In such cases, a leader needs to step up.  It’s not easy, and it does not always endear the leader to the group, especially in the short-term.  Long-term though, the good people understand and will be grateful, and the mediocre often come around.  The small percentage who won’t be reformed?  Well, the other advantage of a “spray” by the leader now and then is that it shakes out the chaff.

Good leadership should prevent such situations arising, but the group getting off-track can happen, and sometimes you inherit problems.  The table-slap, as I call it, is a last resort tactic, but sometimes it’s called for.  One more thing… it has to be delivered with poise.  Just “spitting the dummy”, losing your cool, is not the same at all; and is one of the surest ways to permanently lose the respect of the team.