Nothing in management is straightforward. The plan assumes there will be no unforeseen problems, that there is a certain predictability about events and that variables are kept to a minimum but past experience tells us the opposite is true. We have a plan but we expect to adjust it in light of events. The skill of management is not about how good we are in drawing up plans but how adapt we are in adjusting our plans when circumstances change or the reality turns out to be different to our assumptions.
A great leader is therefore not some one with a clear plan and the strength of character to see it through despite its unpopularity and the opposition from critics and doubters but someone who recognises early on when the plan needs changing
Even great leaders can let past successes influence their thinking so they fail to recognise a plan isn’t working until to late. Napoleon was a great general and leader. He had a plan for invading Russia. Based on previous success he was confident his plan would work provided his generals stuck to it despite the difficulties. Like many before him and since when the plan was not working he believed the answer was for everyone to redouble their efforts. By the time he conceded the plan wasn’t working his army was demoralised, defeated and forced into a humiliating retreat.
The great skill of the successful leader is to know when to perceiver dispute the set backs and unpopularity and when to change or abandon the original plan.
In organisations senior managers have a tendency to stick to a plan long after those task with implementing it have lost faith in it. In part this is due to the reluctance of managers to pass bad news up the line for fear of being accused of not doing their job properly, lacking commitment or being disloyal.
In part it’s about who the senior manager/leader chooses to listen to or be advised by and in part it is about egos , the reluctance to admit you got it wrong in the mistaken belief that leaders are leaders because they don’t get things wrong. The reality is leaders are leaders because they recognise when things need changing.