Business Leaders: Do You Suffer from EMS?



I’ve seen it time and time again in my ten years as a strategy development and implementation consultant: “Excessive Management Syndrome.” Let’s call it “EMS.” The higher up in the chain of command, the harder it strikes, and entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible.

What is it? It’s a leader’s overwhelming inclination to take everything upon his or her own shoulders – solving all the problems, making all the major decisions and playing the hero. Symptoms can include severe cases of “nothing getting done,” or worse, “complete failure.” There are just too many actions that must be devised and implemented for one person to be able to singlehandedly address the needs of an entire organization.

The good news for most leaders is that the cure is readily available – it’s the competent people on their teams. I was fortunate to learn about the power of an accountable team from my previous life in the military. I served as a senior Army officer for years, and in that line of work, you can’t afford to have even a mild case of EMS. You can train, drill and issue all the orders you want ... but in the field, things rarely go as planned. You need to have confidence that your soldiers will take initiative, accomplish the mission and get out safe.

Maybe it would be helpful for corporate leaders to put themselves in a general’s shoes now and then. Empower your team, and let that army of capable people attack the challenge with all the knowledge and talent they’re armed with.

One technique leaders can employ to avoid EMS is “Constructive Accountability.” The tenets of this model are: (1) no blame, (2) work together, and (3) move forward.

Blame doesn’t accomplish anything, so we move right past it. That enables us to spend more time mining the team’s considerable experience and knowledge. These are the people who know how things work and where things can be improved. Their experience must be brought to bear to generate realistic, effective solutions. Then, because they’ve taken ownership of the solutions, employees are more motivated to see them through.

Meanwhile, the leader’s role is to drive for continuous improvement, keep the organization focused on the future and enjoy the amazing productivity of a healthy, happy company.

For severe EMS sufferers, delegating some decision making might seem uncomfortable for awhile. But take it from an Army officer: not being in charge of everything is a great way to lead!