Most of the business owners I’ve met don’t want to be jerks to their employees. They want to be fair and reasonable. But it is possible to go too far. Some business owners try so hard to be friends with their employees that they forget who ought to be in charge. I recently met with an owner whose employees revolted when he tried to make some very necessary changes. Unfortunately, he was more worried about having them like him, than he was in getting his company back on track.
Some owners who want a tight ship adopt an “I am your work God” sensibility. With this brand of dictatorship, you drive success by inspiring fear and respect in your employees. Your team acts on your decisions without thinking, they take no prisoners, and they realize there is no excuse for failure. Failure means termination. At the other end of the spectrum are democratically managed offices, where doors are always open, management-employee relationships are nurtured, and the community makes the crucial decisions.
Democracy sounds nice, but in my experience with small and mid-sized businesses, it doesn’t usually lead to success. Business is about making profits, not making friends. An effective and successful owner doesn’t need to be a jerk, but he or she does need to be the boss. That means making the tough decisions as you see fit, regardless of whether anyone who works for you agrees. If that’s dictatorship, I’m all for it.
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