Every once in a while I feel compelled to write something timely during a critical point in the world. Usually it has to do with something happening in the United States; this time it's about what's happening in Eastern Europe, specifically the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia. I'm not going to talk about that clash specifically; instead, I'm going to talk about leadership, like I often so, and why this is a great example of both bad planning and, more specifically, bad leadership.

Entitled and Oppressed

Almost everyone around the world believes Putin's military attack against the Ukraine is horrific; that not everyone believes this is insane. His official reasoning about a neo-Nazi presence growing in the region when the leader of the Ukraine is Jewish is almost as stupid as... well, I won't go there for now.

How many of you have had to deal with leaders who come up with a bad plan for reasons of their own, spend a lot of time trying to convince others how good the plan is for everyone when it's implementation will only serve the leader... or at least the leader thinks so. It's often a plan that's not well thought out.

What about consequences that could affect the organization or people associated with the organization? What about those who feel they have to support your plan initially, but eventually find ways to rebel against you? What about the masses who didn't see it coming, supposedly supporters of yours, who decide to turn against you? What about those masses of people who aren't scared to show their displeasure at your actions, and you as the leader might have to take drastic action to protect your idea (even if it means finding ways to silence the masses, legal or not)?

Many years ago when I was still an employee but in a leadership position, I was having a conversation with the chief financial officer, the person I reported to. I can't remember the context, but he was telling me that at the hospital he was previously at, he decided it was time to shake things up in the billing department, even though he had a director overseeing the department at the time.

What he did was have the people in the two physical offices switch rooms... take everything out of their desks and relocate into the other room. I asked him why he did that, and his response was "I had a feeling they weren't getting along well, so I thought if I made everyone move to another location they'd all be mad at me and start getting along with each other." He never told me if that strategy worked, which I interpreted as... no... no it didn't.

Whereas I don't believe Putin did any of this to try to pull his country together by making everyone mad, I think what he did proves that he's a failed leader in multiple ways. Let's look at some of these ways as best we can; I'm not an expert on Russian government, but I've read a lot over the years, so I'm not totally ignorant.

First, autocratic leaders don't allow a lot of back and forth discussions on ideas. If the autocrat has an idea, it's shared with hired "supporters", who are expected to come up with ideas on how to put the plan in motion. The autocrat might have an idea of what and how the plan should be executed and only wants to hear thoughts on how they can get away with it.

Any time the person in charge has no idea how to push something through that they want, but is going to do it anyway, it leaves little leeway for those around to have their true say on the matter. Faced with the prospect of being fired, derided, blacklisted or possibly killed, suddenly everyone in the room is thinking about themselves instead of the good for everyone. That never works, and has never lasted long anywhere in history.

Second, an autocratic leaders idea of a plan for everyone usually goes against the grain of common sense. Even if the idea is to buy every employee in the company ice cream for lunch for one day, not sharing that idea with your closest advisors before doing it is potential suicide.

Telling them you're going to do it anyway but want ideas on how to present it is also dangerous long term, but it's not anything that could get someone killed. If you can believe that a decision about ice cream could be crucial, imagine an idea about invading another country without a good reason would be anything less crucial. You can't.

Good leadership isn't about the leader. It's about the people the leaders responsible for and the organization they work for. Good leadership brings others into the process, shares ideas, encourages discussion, modifies when necessary and pushes forward. There might not always be total agreement, but pros and cons are put on the table, thought and talked about, and the attempt is to minimize any negative possibilities, although they can always occur.

In Putin's case, he didn't discuss his ideas with a lot of people. There was no back and forth conversation with anyone; only what he wanted from others so he could present those words without much conviction. He didn't even discuss it with his "rich friends", who are presently scrambling all across the world trying to sell their properties and go... where, we don't know, because few of them seem to want to go back to Russia,

He didn't consider the sanctions. He didn't consider that many businesses would disassociate themselves from his country. He didn't consider the potential impact against his citizens who were doing things outside of the country, who are now stained with the stench of his decisions.

He didn't realize that many of his own citizens would riot, that he'd "have to" use violence and suppression to quiet and hide them, but couldn't because it's a different world than it was even 30 years ago. He didn't consider that maybe his IT people weren't the best in the world after all, and that a group of "Anonymous" hackers would interrupt his propaganda machine and start sending a lot of their secrets around the world.

This is drastically bad and flawed leadership. This was drastically flawed planning. The best I can hope for is that other bad leaders will learn from Putin's mistakes and try to be better. Unfortunately, since history often repeats itself, not only will there be more coming... it's already here... and that's the scariest and most depressing thing of all.