Leading by Numbers
by Paul Hazelden

Painting by Numbers

In my childhood, they used to sell 'Painting by Numbers' kits. Perhaps they still do. Someone with no artistic ability could use one of these kits to produce a reasonable attempt at an oil painting.

The important thing to remember about these kits is that they did not make you into an artist.

Now, I don't mind that people without any artistic ability can create reasonable paintings. If it brings a few more items of relative beauty into the world, why not? What worries me is the number of 'Leading by Numbers' kits that must have been sold in the past few years.

Vision by Numbers

In the good old days, a leader would have vision. He (it was usually a 'he' but the same applies to all the female leaders) - he wanted to go somewhere, and if he convinced enough other people it was a good place to go and they would do better by going with him, then off they went: something changed.

These days, leaders seem to behave more like schoolboys. "Okay, I'm the leader. Now, tell me what we are going to do." Of course, they don't say it quite like that. It's more like "Set up a focus group to tell us what we need to campaign about" but it comes to much the same thing in the end. Leadership has become a management function. You don't need to believe anything or have anything of a vision, as long as you can set up a focus group and apply the results.

Directing by Numbers

A more serious problem arises because leaders don't understand what they are leading. So they ignore the process, and set some targets for the outcomes. They give those targets to the people below them, and expect them to be achieved. This generally manages to pass as leadership if the targets are halfway sensible.

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Copyright © 2003 Paul Hazelden
http://hazelden.org.uk/gr01/art_gr021_leading_by_numbers.htm was last updated 5 March 2008
Page content last modified: 29 October 2003
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