The Leadership Playbook: Your Leadership Team Is Not Stupid


It’s unlikely that your company’s leadership team is stupid. That doesn’t mean that they always make the right decisions, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes. If they are trying at all, they will make bad decisions and mistakes (some more serious than others).

Much of the time when you believe your leadership team is stupid or out of touch, they are innocent of those charges, but guilty of not communicating well enough, frequently enough, or clearly enough.


  • You believe your territory is too big. But your company’s leadership team had to determine how best to organize territories while at the same time they had an opportunity to make a strategic acquisition. They didn’t have money for both, even though both would have been good decisions. You might not know what their choices were or how they reached the decision they took, but they determined it was what was best based on the information they had available.
  • You believe that your company should be investing more in marketing to create greater awareness about your new offerings. It would make your job easier. As much as your leadership team would have liked to have spent more on marketing, the issues with your technology were overwhelming. The investment in technology was even more important to the company’s growth. You might not have understood the timing of the decision, even though it might have been the best choice available.

Assume Good Intentions

Just like you, your company’s leadership team wishes that money was no object and that they could invest in every great opportunity available. They wish there were no constraints on what and how they could invest, but nothing could be further from the truth. Money is always a constraint.

Instead, your company’s leadership team is forced to make tradeoffs. If they spend in one area, they are depriving another area of money it would no doubt benefit from that same investment. Most companies spend a lot of time on these decisions. They argue about what is right, what is next, and what choice they need to make. The marketplace punishes leadership teams who are stupid or reckless, even it takes time for the marketplace to dole out the punishment.

If you don’t understand why your leadership team is making some decision that you believe to be wrong, assume good intentions. Know that they were almost certainly making a trade-off and that you may be unaware of the choices they were forced to make.

Lessons for Leaders

If you are in leadership, take the time to explain the decisions you make to the people who work for and with you. Tell them why you decided what you decided. Make sure they know that you are going to make a lot of decisions, always with people who oppose that decision and wish a different one had been taken. Remind them that you are always trying to do what’s best, even when the decisions aren’t easy. And ask them for their trust and support.

How much experience do you have making the trade-offs that leaders make?

How likely is it that there is information that is unavailable to you?

What happens when you assume people are stupid or that they have bad intentions?

If you are a leader, how well do you communicate the reasons you make the decisions you make?

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