Can the wrong person spoil a well-conceived project? Napoleon Bonaparte already answered this question when said to prefer an army of rabbits driven by a lion than an army of lions driven by a rabbit. In the second half of II World War, some of the collaborators of Hitler were driven crazy because Hitler was waiting for “the voice” to tell him what to do.
Perhaps, mentions of Napoleon or Hitler could invite to think that cases where a single person can be very damaging for organizations are scarce and limited to war situations. Far from it. One of the first duties of real managers could be defined by a single word: Contention. The world outside is confusing enough to have someone at the top introducing more confusion instead of choosing carefully where to look and which are the issues that deserve attention.
Instead of that, some ill-selected managers enjoy making waves. If someone is not very sure about his position and his abilities –perhaps with good reasons- the experience of having a whole organization confused as an answer to his erratic behavior could be rewarding. At the end, he could not be able to find a positive way to affirm his own importance. Hence, the noise returned from the organization to his own behavior is like music for his ears. The noise says about his importance, not to mention his inadequacy for the job but this is harder to hear for him.
I would not like to put names to this kind of behavior even though, as any enough experienced person, I should miss fingers in both hands if I had to count all the times that I have seen this pattern. When it appears once more, it is a dejà vu feeling. Perhaps many head-hunters are convinced of Dilbert Principle where it states that bad workers are displaced to the place where they can be less damaging, that is, to the top of the organization. Perhaps that is why many of them seem to be more concerned with “aestethics” than with the real value –or the real threat- that they can introduce into an organization.
Of course, shouting the own incompetence with every single action is not the only way to have the wrong person at the wrong place. There are others even worse and very common, for instance, showing a behavior full-centered in their own convenience at the expense of the organization whose interest they are supposed to defend. However, these people are professional liars and harder to detect than the first ones.
Crazy, erratic and impulsive people are much easier to detect. If every single day is a test showing the incompetence of someone, if decisions made yesterday are reverted without reason today, if a whole workforce is asking every day “now, what?”, a question has to be asked to the one who decided about hiring someone visibly incompetent: Where were you looking at?
Please, feel free to put the name that fits the description of the glorified incompetents that you have gone into. Of course, I have my own list but it is not the objective of this post to make it public 🙂