An Example of Accountability without Control
Clergy often think leadership in the business world must be easier than leadership in the church because in the church leaders deal with volunteers instead of employees. The assumption is that there is enough “control” available to business leaders to get tasks done. Such is not always the case, as this story illustrates. William C. Steere, Jr., CEO of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer until his retirement in 2001, tells of when he had to achieve “accountability without control.”
One of the toughest jobs in our company is being a product manager. Looking back on my career, this is where I personally developed my approach to team-based leadership. At Pfizer, product managers have a lot of responsibility but few if any direct reports. You may be responsible for launching a billion-dollar drug but have no staff. In other words, you are responsible for developing and implementing a plan that requires the active support of others who don’t report to you. These people are often powerful in their own functions and can stop a program if they don’t agree with your approach. Our most effective product managers can influence without direct control. That is a quality I look for in leaders at every level, because in today’s world you don’t have direct control in many situations. . . . Even when you do, forcing others to comply rarely produces truly outstanding results.
[Source: “Sustaining Growth: The Business of Leaders: An Interview with William C. Steere, Jr.,” LEADER TO LEADER, Spring 2000, 40-41.
Ó 2000 Leader to Leader Institute. This material is used by permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.]
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