The Person at Work Who’s Not Your Boss — But You Still Can’t Ignore
You are in charge of an annual charity golf tournament your company sponsors every year. While the participating country club handles all the golfing details, you do a lot of work on running the event and the closing banquet on the last day.
An important part of the event’s success is getting the support of key Board members who want to be involved. Not only do they have access to a lot of resources, they also can ensure participation from their friends and colleagues.
The Gerald Problem
You work with one Board member, Gerald, who is the retired president of an insurance company. His behavior is often Q1 arrogance. He’s not so much openly hostile or aggressive as he is egotistical and a know-it-all. He assumes you will recognize his superior ideas and suggestions.
Unfortunately, a number of his ideas are either out of date or just not a good fit. For instance, he wanted to move the closing banquet to the day after the final golf round.
Ultimately, he cannot force you to accept his ideas when they are weak. However, he has unofficial power that could potentially damage your efforts via his lack of support for the event.
How should you handle Gerald over the course of this project?
It’s not a good idea to sidestep working with Gerald. He’s too powerful a figure in your company. True, you don’t want to be confrontational with Q1 behavior in a public setting. If you want Gerald’s cooperation, you need to give him respect and allow him to save face.
But it’s not Q4 leadership — and it’s certainly two-faced — to say yes in a meeting while knowing you’ll just dismiss the idea afterward. That’s not managing behavior; it’s avoidance on your part. And what will you do when Gerald learns that you buried his idea? Won’t his Q1 reaction be worse than if you had dealt with him honestly earlier? See Answer C.
This strategy negates your skills as a Q4 collaborative leader. You were put in charge of this event because you are supposed to work with the many people involved in making it a big success. That includes Gerald. The difference between this answer and the previous one is that this one allows bad ideas to make it into your project! This is Q2 acquiescence. Trust that with a Q4 approach, you can manage Gerald’s Q1 behavior. You are in charge, not Gerald. See answer C, which keeps Gerald as an important player, while also helping him handle rejection when your decision goes against him.
The farther you rise as a leader of a company, the more you will have to work with people who have an informal power advantage: board members, friends of the boss, unofficial advisors, influential clients, stakeholders, and important stockholders. With someone like Gerald, your test as a Q4 leader is to acknowledge his contributions. Some are good, even if he tends to present them with a Q1 insistence or swagger. Those that aren’t as good might be tweaked so that they do no harm. But including Gerald might go a long way toward maintaining his enthusiasm for this event. So, he wants a big banner over the entrance at the clubhouse that you hadn’t budgeted. You might get him to be okay with something just as glitzy, but less expensive. As for Gerald touting a suggestion you just cannot approve, you might discuss it privately with him right away, showing that he is valued. Keep him in the loop. You might have an alternative that would still recognize him and gain his support.
Leadership usually requires working with important people who aren’t on the organizational chart. Put those Q4 skills to work engaging others, but be firm and maintain your leadership role.