The Micro-Meddler or the Egregious Ego

A Challenging Leadership Scenario

Below is a profile on leadership that tells of two different types of leaders. Both leaders have definite flaws in their leadership profiles, but I think that one of them can been seen as a more effective leader.

Can you relate to this scenario? Have you experienced something like this before in your organization?

(This situation is real but the names have been changed.)

The Micro-Meddler

Ben is the most senior ranking official at an organization of over 200 people. His preferred method of operating is to keep a fairly non-formal approach with all of the staff. He doesn’t like it when too many rules and procedures are implemented because it gets too “corporate.” When people bring something to his attention, he jumps into the details and quickly works with people until he feels that a resolution has been found. He isn’t a micro-manager, per se. After seeing him in action,  I’ve actually coined the term “micro-meddler” to describe him more accurately.

You see, Ben seems to always get in the middle of things in an attempt to help, but he ends up messing things up. And as one might imagine, he then expects others to clean-up the mess that he creates.

The staff has all learned how to take advantage of this approach.

When they want something, they simply become the proverbial “squeaky wheel” until he takes action to come save the day. Although he thinks that he is helping, he is actually undermining a functional system with his various approaches to leadership. To make things worse, Ben tends to avoid confrontation, preferring instead to reward those whom he likes with surprise bonuses and giving little or no feedback to others. The lack of structure in his personal preferences seems to foster a hapless approach to his rigor-less leadership.

The Egregious Ego

Ben has more troubles. One of them is his direct reports, Chris. Chris has been in position for many years in a role that coordinates many of the projects and work efforts across the organization. Because Chris has been around a long time, he has become the subject-matter-expert in many areas. For many things, it seems that if you want something done you’re going to have to talk to Chris. Chris knows it and apparently he likes the power.

I’ve dubbed him the “egregious ego.”

Chris is not easy to work with. Different people throughout the organization have complained that Chris is rude, abrasive, argumentative, and quick to spread rumors. Over the years, the situation seems to have become more pronounced. But people have learned that when they want something from Chris they need to adjust their approach, just catch him on a “good day”, or find others in the organization with whom to collaborate so they can attain the same results without having to work with Chris.

So who is the most effective leader of the two?

Can you relate to either of the people identified in this scenario? Have you worked with anyone who behaved like either of them? It is clear that both people have some challenges as leaders. So, here is the question for you: Who is the more effective leader for this organization?

According to John C. Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence: the ability to influence the behavior of others. With that in mind, I would submit that Chris, the “egregious ego” is the more effective leader. While Chris’ behavior is arguably more dysfunctional to the organization, the end result is still greater influence on others.

There are many factors at play in any leadership situation and each factor impacts another. These are some key leadership elements at play here:

  • Positional power vs. Task Power (Ken Blanchard)
  • Abdicating authority
  • Effective leaders vs. “good” leaders
  • Obtaining results vs. “just doing things”
  • Violating the natural laws of leadership

Stay Tuned

Please let me know your thoughts on this situation, particularly as it relates to the elements listed above. What similar experiences have you had and how did you deal with them? In a future post, I’ll highlight the input received.

In addition, I’ll introduce what I call the “Natural Laws of Leadership.” Specifically as it relates to this scenario, I’ll introduce the first Natural Law of Leadership: Empowerment Through Inaction.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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David Hasenbalg is President and COO of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps individuals and organizations achieve their objectives and their potential

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3 responses to “The Micro-Meddler or the Egregious Ego

  1. As much as I feel both styles described above are poor examples of leadership, I would have to agree with you that the egregious ego leader is more effective as he/she empowers or influences people to find alternate ways of addressing the challenges they are faced with. Since working with the egegious manager is no longer a first choice option, workers are “forced” to work”around” him, giving them the motivation to think more creatively of different strategies and tactics to employ to achieve a successful outcome. This leads to developing new partnerships,resulting in better collaboration skills and more knowledge that they might not of had if they worked through the egregious boss. I worked with an “egregious ego” boss and I found I honed new skills as I developed novel approaches and new partners to help me work towards achieving my work objectives without being subjected to uncomfortable and rude behavior. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention” and the egregious manager proves this point.


  2. In my family, I can quickly become the micro-meddler and try to swoop in and fix things. I’d love to read more about how to change this with my kids and spouse.


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