Casper’s tenth law of enterprise is:
Few lead by example. Some lead by criticism. Most follow in silence.
There is a popular rule that states that 1% of people create, 9% of people comment, and 90% of people consume. It is usually applied to situations like collaborative web sites, but in my personal experience it also provides a nice way to describe how leadership works in enterprise environments.
Leaders who do what they say and say what they mean at in the 1%. You know these 1% because they always follow up comments like “this situation is not good enough” with “and this is how I am going to solve the problem”.
Ironically, these 1%’ers will often get more wrong than right. That is just the nature of trying new things. But when they get it right, they’ll have created something that sets the standard for how things should be done.
Vocal criticisers make up the 9%. These critics find flaws everywhere they look, and they are not shy about pointing them out.
Critics are almost always correct in the sense that it is incredibly easy to find flaws once you get to see a product or use a process for yourself. I’ve written before about how natural and instinctive this feeling of wrongness is, and in most enterprise environments, there is no shortage of things that any reasonable person will find to be imperfect.
The remaining majority remain mostly silent, going about their day while avoiding making waves. Whether it is contentment, indifference, or just an aversion to confrontation, the silent majority get the job done without radical alterations to the status quo and without public criticism of those people, processes or products that they have to interact with.
Although the 90-9-1 rule is a general rule, it seems that not everyone is happy to accept this ratio. When asked what they wish they had been told, Elliot Cohen, the CTO of PillPack, had these words of wisdom:
There’s owners and then there’s employees. Only hire owners.
I think every group has their value; it’s just a matter of knowing how to utilize it. Accept that leaders will get it wrong, critics are probably right, and don’t take the silent majority for granted.