Situation: P is an aggressive, direct rising star heading to a mid level managerial position. P is also a maximalist and tends to assume whatever roles are ceded to him.
T is the head honcho who runs the group: he prefers to act through consensus and nebulous decision-making processes, deploying soft power. As a passive-aggressive actor, T may attempt to provoke negative end results but does not like direct exercise of power to create negative situations (i.e., firing).
M is a lazy but kind underperforming group member who has been at the company for some time. The group is quite small and familial in nature.
Problem: T finds himself unable to improve M’s performance but cannot bring himself to fire M.
P understands that M’s underperformance is a drag on the group and himself. He is also frustrated by the underperformance and has asked for control of M, thinking (likely correctly) that a more direct and decisive management approach to M may yield better results.
The frustration from P’s perspective is that T has not agreed to directly specify putting P in charge of M. Partially this is personality preference, partially this is out of sensitivity to M’s reaction (at being put under P who is his same age) and partially this is a test as P’s leadership style due to his directness can be abrasive.
Resolution: What P is not seeing is that T is incrementally shifting the group structure to let P fill a more mid-level role, while not explicitly saying so. I believe what T is looking for is for P to proactively and organically “seduce” M into working together. And certain as P exerts more control over M, T is unlikely to intervene.
P should engage M in more dialogue, join more of his work and eventually start to input his opinions into M’s decisions. If done successfully, this will demonstrate to T M’s readiness for the role.