Every leadership system has them. Every organization has them. They are one of the three pillars of a leadership system. They are both formal and informal. Bryce Hoffman, in his book: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company tells the story about Alan breaking an unofficial rule. The “rule” had been that everyone, including the CEO had to make an appointment to see the Chairman and schedule it through his assistant. Alan, as the CEO, thought this was silly so one day he just walked by the assistant and straight into the office of William Clay Ford, Jr.. He broke a standing rule and walked on the perceived power & control of the assistant. Rules are important, occasionally it is important that rules be challenged.
I asked my young Marine Corp nephew not long ago who eats last in the chow line. Without hesitation he said “the highest ranking officer”. This is the theme of Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. For the Marine Corp, this is a behavioral rule of their leadership system. Leaders eat last. Could this be a reason why the Marine Corps is one of the most successful organizations in the world in teaching leadership?
Marcus Buckingham, in his book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, recognizes two things: 1) organizations and systems come with a prescribed set of rules, and 2) great leaders, operating in a world of systems and a leadership system that is made up of rules, must frequently break those rules because they have the ability to destroy his or her personal leadership. This is so because, the system is mightier than the individual.