November 17, 2017

Are too many bosses “control freaks?”

Sir Brian SouterSir Brian Souter, highly successful co-founder of the Stagecoach bus group and always an entertaining speaker, made the front page of the Scottish broadsheet newspaper “The Herald” on Saturday with his conference comment that “too many large companies are run by ‘control freaks’ whose outlook affects long-term business growth.”

Absolutely right, in my view. Curious, almost, that it was news.

Except it is news that he said it because it’s not conventional wisdom.

These “emperors,” as he dubbed them, “lead to poor long-term growth as they are averse to risk and trying new ideas… Some people are terrified to do anything in case it affects their share price.”

Brian went on to suggest “the proliferation of emperors in senior roles will actually stunt the potential for faster economic growth.” (He was speaking in Scotland but clearly thinking more broadly.)

I agree. I experience the consequences of this virtually every day. The agility of larger organisations especially is a fraction of what it could be.

Control freaks shut down people. And that shuts down results. You can probably see that around you, if you look properly.

Yes, we need “governance” but we also need agility and energy and genuine, empowering leadership.

I think so anyway.

What about you? Is Sir Brian right?