The fields of management and leadership are full of simple schemes and classifications for understanding how people and processes tick. These can be a useful tool to turn to when planning change or when there is problem that is difficult to put a finger on. They provide concepts and vocabulary to help us explain problems to one another and find solutions together.
I encountered a new leadership concept this week…
Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the Commander-in-Chief of the WW2 German Army, had a fascinating system for classifying his officers.
“I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”
This system is amusing for its frank, perhaps outdated, description of most workers as stupid and the image it conjures of that much mocked workplace character – the “little Hitler”. We all recognise that person who enthusiastically applies rules and regulation without proper judgement or understanding of the systemic harm they are doing.
However, I think it is too reductionist, rigid (and rude) for the modern workplace.