[February 14, 2014] Gatekeepers are in every organization and they are the ones who exercise control over access to something. In the old days, this meant limiting access through the city gate. Today, the term is used metaphorically, referring to people who decide whether you gain access to something; like to information, a person, a service, an interview.
The job of leaders is to restrict gatekeepers and keep them from doing damage or inhibiting creativity. Yet we find gatekeepers everywhere. Their job is essentially to restrict access based on some criteria. A leaders’ job is to be prudent and careful in their use.
There are many articles written on how to bypass or co-opt gatekeepers; basically saying how to get around them. But why are they viewed as being a problem?
Everyone has experienced a receptionist who will not provide you with an interview or information to meet a senior person. We have also all been to a Department of Motor Vehicles requiring seemingly endless forms and mind-numbing processes to gain something basic you need, like a driver’s license.
These are the bad gatekeepers who have been improperly empowered to create barriers for others. The psychology behind the gatekeepers’ personality and desires to restrict others, through the exercise of power, is not at issue here but is part of the reasoning why they are so successful. Sadly, bad gatekeepers can create an environment that holds back an organization.
All the more reason that leaders need to be both weary of the use of gatekeepers and to ensure they limit their effectiveness into a narrow range of tasks.