Over the last several months, I have been unfortunate enough to observe a failure in leadership and ownership that illustrates the difference between being a leader and an out of control ego-driven human. Not only has this leader driven the car into the ditch, he is lighting the match to burn the evidence and is standing with shovel to ensure that the left over carcass is buried in the ditch. He is hoping that the powers that be will be unable to locate the remains.
For the last 10 years, this individual has put his ego ahead of his organization. He has publically and privately humiliated his team members. He has repeatedly broken the trust of his stakeholders. He is desperately holding on to the seat of power such as it is. Even being publically humiliated isn’t enough for him to park his ego at the door and do what is right. No one willing follows him. He has followers because of his title not because of his personal integrity. One of the basic tenets of leadership is “if you are alone at the top, you have screwed up and should give it up.” When you do things behind the scenes without support, you shouldn’t be surprised or hurt when you see betrayal in the faces of your team members. But then, maybe you just aren’t that bright.
The following are lessons that I have learned from this individual that will fundamentally change the way that I lead others. By the way, it reinforces everything that I learned in the military, if I looked good in orange, fragging might be an option.
- If you can’t accept reality, you shouldn’t bury your head in the sand. For goodness sake, there are only so many times that you can pretend that the press, the public, your staff and the world are out to get you. You have managed to lead your organization into the fray at least three times and the results have been worse every time. When will you get the message? The last time I checked, you weren’t an ostrich, get with the program.
- Don’t spend your integrity, you don’t have any left. This person started out as someone that I thought was worthy of my respect and my support. He has neither. Over the past two years, he has become someone that standing next to in a room makes my skin crawl. You know what I mean .. you stand next to them and your skin prickles. It feels like it is about to leave your body. Obsequious toad is probably the best description that I can come up with for this individual at the moment.
- Skullduggery doesn’t build synergy. I will acknowledge, there will always be times when keeping things confidential is necessary. This person knowingly made a decision without the support of the management stakeholders to expose the organization to public ridicule and derision. He honestly believes that he knows better than the rest of us. He leveraged his declining influence to take steps that make those of us at the table look like morons. When I look across the table, I see a tired old man who should do what is right. He should accept that his decision to go behind the backs of his supporters will earn him the “crowning achievement award for bad decisions”. He has betrayed his stakeholders. In fact, betrayal is too polite a word. Right now, he has more in common with Genghis Khan than he has with Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, or other individuals of integrity. He is more interested in destroying the organization than leaving a self-sustaining one.
I could go on for pages. The bottom line is that leadership is about influence. If you have no influence, it is time to fold up your carnival tent and steal away into the night. If you continue down this road, your legacy will be that of a carnival barker.
Own the fact that you were never meant to have this job – your resignation is needed now rather than later. Step aside and let the organization chart a new course without your toxic influence.
When it is time to go, do the right thing. Go now. After all, it is courageous to take one for the team.