Three Things That “No Drama” Leaders Do November 6 2012

As I write this, it’s Election Day morning in the U.S. Looking back over the last four years, there’s a lot that comes to mind. One specific thought is that in the 2008 campaign, the soon to be President’s nickname was “No Drama Obama.” I guess that comes to mind because there have been a number of data points about leadership and the drama factor that have hit my radar screen lately.

For example, a top executive at Apple, Scott Forstall, was fired last week because, according to all of the reported accounts (here’s a good summary on GigaOm), all of the drama he had created over the years finally came to a head.

The Forstall story and some other data points highlight three things that “no drama” leaders do to get results over the long run.

Forstall was a favorite of the late Steve Jobs and was well known within the company for presenting himself as “mini-Steve.” The problem, of course, was that he wasn’t Steve so his yelling, intransigence and non collaborative behavior wore thin with his peers over the years. He was the exec in charge of the intro of Apple Maps which was such a disaster that the new Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter of apology encouraging customers to use Google Maps until Apple could sort things out with their new app. It turns out that Cook asked Forstall to co-sign the letter and Forstall refused. He was canned by Cook a few weeks later. Apple insiders say there was cheering on campus when the news was announced.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Three Reasons Why You Should Fire the Prima Donna. You can go back and read the reasons for yourself, but the big point is that all the drama that comes with a Prima Donna usually isn’t worth the pain and suffering in the organization.

This point came to mind in a conversation I had recently with a senior executive about one of his direct reports. The top exec couldn’t say enough about how much he appreciated this person’s ability to work well with others while getting outstanding results. After listening to him go on for 10 or 15 minutes, I said, “It sounds like you really appreciate the lack of drama.” The exec laughed and agreed. We both observed how awesome it is to find a senior leader who can get things done while keeping the disruptive drama to a minimum.

There are three things that most “no drama” leaders have in common:

First, they focus on the bigger picture results. It’s not just about their agenda. It’s about the bigger agenda for the organization and how they contribute to that.

Second, they build relationships. They aren’t necessarily the most social person in the room but they treat people with respect even when they disagree with them.

Third, they understand that they set an example. They behave in a way that influences others to behave well.

What’s your take? How much unnecessary drama is there in your organization? What do you think the best leaders do to minimize the drama?

7 Responses to “Three Things That “No Drama” Leaders Do”

  1. Amy says:

    i agree with this article. I had a boss who caused so much drama – waiting for her faith to come to a head! A leader does not have to be disrespectul, rude, and down right dirtly and back stabbing to get results.

  2. George says:

    Great perspective but I would differ on the merits with the president and showing respect. Calmness could also be seen as disinterest to personal agenda.

  3. letsgrowleaders says:

    Drama begets drama…. when leaders are overly dramatic, it creates stress within the organization… and much time is wasted.

  4. Ken Schmitt says:

    Bravo! Being a strong leader who avoids being sucked into the inevitable drama that occurs within a company is a tall order! But, as you suggested, it can be done. Your suggestion to establish relationships, I have learned, is one of the best way to accomplish this. As the owner of an executive career management and recruiting firm, I can not say enough how vital my relationships with my employees are. Not only does it allow me to be aware of issues that are going on as soon as they arise, thereby avoiding escalation; but it also allows me to provide problem solving and conflict resolution in the company. Because my team feels comfortable with me, they can seek me out to help address issues that could quickly escalate into "drama."
    Ken Schmitt

  5. elinorslomba says:

    Interpersonal drama is closely related to ego. Right-sized ego = less drama.

  6. Amanda C. says:

    It is so true about relationships, with customers,with people you work with and with people in general. Interpersonal drama does not get you anywhere. Thank you for sharing!

  7. connie says:

    Great post, one starts getting angry at the boss who thinks that this one person seems to be more important to everyone else, because the boss lets him/her get away with such behavior!

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