Updated: Jul 22
All GUNS A-BLAZING — THE WRONG WAY OF LEADING A TEAM
‘All Guns a-Blazing’, a term usually associated with doing something with full enthusiasm. ‘I went into the meeting with all guns a-blazing, determined not to lose the deal.’ In the wild-west, ‘all Guns a-Blazing’ was associated with cowboys. When a cowboy would enter an emergency situation with 'all guns a-blazing’ aka firing indiscriminately.
But ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ in this article is about that peculiar kind of leader who thinks alike and feels that it is their god given right to go on their team ‘all guns a-blazing all the time. You may have surely encountered such a leader.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a lot of misery across the world. People were falling sick with no treatment in sight, and businesses were suffering because of the subsequent lockdown to control the spread of the virus. But, along with the misery, the pandemic also brought the opportunity to innovate and use technology and ways for business continuity. IT and IT-enabled services companies were at the forefront of innovation during the entire pandemic ensuring continued services through work from home option. All this was only possible through effective leadership by all involved: Managers (across all levels), TL’s, Supervisors, and team members.
Leadership is not just about designation; it is about possessing the skill to motivate self and others, leading self and others, & nurture self and people around you (Too many ‘And’s’). There have been countless leaders in the past who were part of a huge crowd, yet they had the skills to shine and get noticed as an effective leader & motivator even when no one gave them the said responsibility. An ‘all guns a-blazing’ leader, however, believes that its all about the designation and that because they are on a particular designation, they deserve all the respect.
The covid-19 pandemic has taught us that panic will only make things worse and that there is undoubtedly a better way to do things. It showed us the importance of effective leadership and self-leadership, as well. With both leaders and their teams working from home during the pandemic, both the leaders and team members required a particular set of leadership qualities for ensuring the continuity of their business. Discipline, innovative and consistency being the keywords.
Myths about being a leader. If you thought that leadership was only about:
Riding in like a cowboy with all guns a-blazing and pointing only mistakes, then you are wrong, and you are not just a bad leader, but you are a terrible leader.
Being critical. If you thought that is what makes you a good leader, you need to re-evaluate your approach.
If the answer to both statements is a resounding ‘yes’ from deep within you, you are what I like to call a ‘All Guns a-Blazing’.
You believe in handling team members like kids, and you have the potential to bring down the team’s morale and productivity with your Cowboy like approach. *No offence meant to the Cowboys, but such a system will not work with adults, knowledgeable adults. You also believe that criticizing is a way you gain your team member’s respect.
Signs of a ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ Leader:
Most conversations, meetings and training sessions start with me, me, me and more me.
You walk around throwing the ‘I know it all attitude’ at everyone.
You are overly critical.
Feedback from you is always generic and not specific.
Your criticism is never constructive. It, more or less, is your way of saying, “I am the boss.”
You become hyper if a question is asked concerning feedback.
Low levels of employee motivation (Conducting a regular e-Sat should give a good idea about this)
High level of attrition (This shouldn’t matter if the level up believes that there is plenty of talent around, so attrition doesn’t really matter. They will just hire new people. If this is the case, then there is a severe issue with the higher up as well)
Too much micromanagement and interference. Answer the following: a) If your excuse for this the team members being incompetent, then why did you hire them in the first place? b) Did you train them well? c) Are they aptly equipped to perform the job?
‘Finger pointing’ syndrome. No matter what the issue is, they will never take ownership but only indulge in the blame-game
Believe that leadership position translates into a respect
High level of ‘leaves’ amongst the team members
Everyone else looks like a competitor to you, including your own team members
You like to do most of the work trying to show how hard you are working
Avoids discussions. Usually likes to pass orders instead of healthy debate and is quick to blame others in case of failure.
Again, if some or all of the above warranted a ‘yes’ from you, then it is undoubtedly the time to re-evaluate your leadership style.
Reasons why may be a ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ Leader:
You were promoted solely based on your operational performance. A good salesman achieving high targets might not be a good team leader; food for thought.
You were promoted because you have been loyal to the organization, and you had been into the same profile for far too long. Loyalty is not directly proportional to the efficacy of an employee as a leader.
You were promoted without any assessment or without undergoing any MDP or coaching. If MDP warranted a google search, you know what needs to be done because I have spelt it many times. Also, a simple google search will show many results for skill assessment tools.
Your organization has no time for improvement because they believe that anyone promoted will eventually learn on the job.
Mark of a good leader:
Uses ‘us’ more than ‘I’.
Gives realistic specific feedback; constructively. Just type how do I make my sentences constructive? and you will get tons of suggestions
Appreciates good performance publicly. Appreciation goes a long way and sharing good performance and best practices will boost their morale.
Criticizes personally and praises publicly. The very effective mantra which can prevent the ‘involve all, reply all and send all’ syndrome
Is innovative and creative.
‘Nurture’ is the keyword for him/her.
Choose a suitable mode of communication.
Share’s knowledge and experience constructively and not just to boost his/her own trumpet.
Uses lighthouse gaze to view and treat each team member equally. Being familiar with just a select few would seem a partial attitude to other team members. Stay equally familiar with all.
Creates long-lasting connections rather than friendship with him/her team members
Believes in the saying that respect is a two-way process. Works to gain respect by leading by example.
I would put a ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ leader in the autocratic leadership style but only worse because a ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ leader is an authoritarian leader minus all the good qualities of an autocratic leader. Make no mistake about it. Autocratic leaders also possess some excellent qualities, namely knowledge and skill. It’s the attitude part where they lack most. I hate to say it, but I have worked with some of the most fantastic autocratic leaders. Even though they were autocratic, but they were also exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable in their respective field. So much so that their eccentricity gets the best of their leadership skills.
A ‘All Guns a-Blazing’ leader is someone who only chose to remember his designation and forgot everything else. Just like the woodcutter in this story.
Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant. The pay was excellent, and so were the working conditions. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he would work. On the first day, the woodcutter felled 18 trees.
“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”
Motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring down 15 trees. On the third day, he tried even harder, but he could only manage 10 trees. Day after day, he finished with fewer trees.
“I must be losing my strength,” the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.
“Sharpen? I’ve had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been so busy trying to cut trees….”
The metaphor in this story is apparent. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Put time on your calendar to sharpen your axe. As a leader, you will be glad you stayed so sharp.
So, all’s not lost; even if you feel that you are a All Guns a-Blazing Leader, all you need to do is learn. Do a self-SWOT and list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats concerning the following learning categories:
Knowledge: This will help you gain a fan following amongst your team members if you use this to nurture instead of boosting yourself.
Skills: This can be fine-tuned with experience and utilizing the knowledge effectively. Your knowledge will surely impress your team members, but your skill gets you absolute respect. Set examples, show your team how to do it.
Attitude: Right attitude is critical for a leader. It’s all about the mindset as to how he/she perceives his/her role/position. A positive, open and flexible attitude goes a long way in helping the leader choose the right leadership style.
Remember that the biggest problem with this kind of a leader is that they carry an ‘I know it all’ & ‘been there done that attitude. If this attitude can be subsided and an objective SWOT can be conducted, then a great deal can be improved.
Inculcate team building basics by considering your team members as people who work with you and not under you as your subordinates. There’s a big difference between both. Be a leader and not a boss.
In the end, remember that People leave People and not organizations.