Yes, that’s right! I said dislike of others.  We’ve all heard how important it is to have empathy and a pastoral streak in order to allow us to connect with our people and lead them on to greater and more profitable things. But not everyone’s like that right?

Me? Well I’m old enough to have seen my attitudes to my fellow man change a lot over time (you may remember my last post on the links between sexual prowess and leadership touching on this issue). And despite the fact that I would say normally I’m quite caring or at least ambivalent to people, I’ve also gone through stages of being genuinely skeptical about the essential worth of other people and the added value that they bring to the human project.

So did that stop me from being a good leader?

I’d like to think the answer is no.

This isn’t that old canard about whether you’d prefer to be a popular leader or a feared leader. Screw that!  A good leader is both liked and feared.  No my friends,  this is about whether YOU can manage these people when at best you don’t really give a damn about them and at worst the very sight of them makes you nauseous and despair for humanity’s future.

So you can’t sterilize your staff, but can you still lead them on to greater performance? Can you manage complexity and talent when you just wish they’d all leave the building and go somewhere secluded to die?  Can you make them walk the final mile for you when all you really want them to walk is a short plank off a high cliff?

Well, for me the answer has always been an emphatic ‘yes’. So what’s the secret?

Well, there is none, I don’t have any answers, all I have is a basic wisdom borne of experience.

You see, the great falsehood at the heart of leadership is that you are doing it in order to lead everyone involved to a better place, that together you are all moving in lock-step to a place of greater prosperity.  This is a lie, a convenient lie, but a lie nonetheless.  You can certainly lead this way.  Hell, even believe it yourself if you have to, but it’s really not essential.

If you’re managing people who you despise, the trick is to simply see them as barely animate tools that are at your disposal to create whatever you want for your own ends – not for theirs or for any cockamamie ‘shared objective’.

In fact, making them work late, putting their personal lives on hold, treating their egos and feelings of self-worth as levers for generating greater performance – all of these things become far more powerful and rational acts of management when you actively dislike the people you’re dealing with. So stop pretending you care about them! Your lies are helping no one.

A short vignette before I stop, I was running a small costume jewelry wholesaler in southern Utah for a short while in the mid-80s and I think it’s fair to say I really disliked the four members of my team, but did it work? Why hell yes, I quadrupled profits. How? By running those SOBs into the ground month after month, that’s how. I could never have done that if I’d liked even one of them!

Now before I stop, a word of caution. I’m not saying this is the best way to lead, just that this is a way to get around the tricky problem of working in a situation where you hate the folks in your team.

Anyone else got any wisdom to share on this? Honest opinions and experiences only please!