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Speak-Up or Manage-Up

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Ron Ashkenas over at the HBR blog speculates on what could’ve contributed to the ignominious exit of Mark Hurd from HP. Ron believes excessive deference and the creation of an “heroic executive” culture might have something to do with the poor judgment that Hurd displayed.  Ron writes

But it does suggest that all of us may need to tone down the excessive deference that creates the “heroic executive” culture. From the manager’s side, this means being more open to admitting mistakes and uncertainty, and encouraging real give-and-take with subordinates and colleagues. If this is difficult to do with your own team or peers, then find a consultant or coach from inside or outside the organization who is not cowed by your status and can be a confidential listener and effective devil’s advocate. For people who report to an executive or are part of an executive team, it means being more courageous in challenging your boss and your peers.

While I am in no position to know the dynamics that were at play with Mark Hurd and his team, Ron does highlight a phenomenon that is real, prevalent and troubling, especially in larger, well-established companies. It would be great if companies worked harder to create a culture where it is more rewarding to “speak-up” than “manage-up.” Such a culture seems to exist naturally in start-ups. Some of it has to do with the transparency that comes with smaller size (of startups). Larger, more established companies just have to work a lot harder to preserve this culture. But it sure is well worth the effort.


Written by Varma Chanderraju

August 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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