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'You’re Fired!' Tough Decisions for Authentic Leaders

February 27, 2018

In this edition of Monthly Insights, Stuart Hardy Director of Executive Education looks at the tough decisions every leader must make which benefit the organisation for the greater good.

Leadership is a contextual exercise – we expect many different characteristics and competencies from different leadership roles: ‘Teachers vs Parents’, ‘Politicians vs CEOs’, to name a few. Is it just a question of understanding a role description and adapting to it? It would be if it weren’t for the fact that we are all individuals with our own set of values and beliefs that drive our personal authenticity.

Modern effective leaders are experts at stepping back and evaluating where they sit on a sliding scale between authenticity to themselves and adapting to individuals and contexts. If we continuously have to adapt to a context that is far away from our authentic self, then we feel stressed and uncomfortable.

At times in business, all leaders are required, due to the role, to make decisions that are not easy to take but which benefit the organisation or the greater good – such as firing people. Few would argue that they like this process. But how can an effective leader’s conscience be reconciled, and the process made less stressful? 

Recent research into those ‘recently dismissed’ has shown that two main factors are at play from a leadership perspective: a) Following ‘correct’ procedure, and b) behaving with a sense of ‘fairness’. Interestingly, the procedural aspects support the need to adapt effectively to the context or role of the job, whereas ‘fairness’ is a value or belief that most authentic leaders would aspire to.

There are four things one can focus on:

  1. The last resort – Losing a job should not come as a surprise.
  2. Easing the transition – The process of departure should be as empathetic as possible.
  3. Taking feedback – Dismissals are opportunities for personal and organizational learning.
  4. Remember those left behind – Be open and transparent.

Just remember. Treat that person the same way you'd want to be treated if you were in that situation. They're still a good person, just not the right fit.

As Tom Peters said:

“The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself.”