Tag Archives: Integrity

Worst. Leadership Advice. Ever.

Epic. Fail.

Sometimes, writing a blog on leadership takes care of itself.  Consider this letter to the editor, outlining someone’s advice to aspiring leaders.  Advice that, if someone actually implemented, would surely see them fail.  Well, maybe they wouldn’t immediately fail, but the long-term damage that someone armed with this advice could do to an organization is significant.

Let’s hit this point-by-point, shall we?

  • “Any aspiring leader would do well to adopt the following cliché as a personal mantra: Do as I say, not as I do.” Seriously?  This is exactly the sort of thing that people immediately notice and chalk up in the “lack of respect” column.  I suggest you go the other way.
  • “Leadership is about inspiring others – not effecting real change.” How can this be?  How many of us are inspired by the “that’s how we’ve always done it” school of management?  And, yes, you may have heard a snort of derision in my use of the word management.  At least in this context.
  • “The private life and personal values of the leader should remain out of view; “integrity” is merely a buzzword used to distract from the real measure of a leader’s success: control.” I view leadership as the whole package.  Anyone who views integrity as a buzzword needs to seriously consider their focus in life and examine the damage they may be doing in their current role.
  • “The leader alone remains in a position of authority and power – everything useful comes down from the top.” Wow.  If the road to engaging your team ever had an off-ramp, this is it.  Seth Godin has it right – a great boss approaches life with the reverse perspective – you work for your team, not the other way around.
  • “Granted, it may become necessary to provide the illusion of a democratic process; people in today’s society need to feel that they have some degree of influence.” If you are anything like me, you try to surround yourself with smart people.  People who value honesty and authenticity.  People who will see through this manipulative tactic for what it is.
  • “These consultations can even be held after a course has already been charted, as long as the participants are made to feel that their input will be considered.”  What’s missing?  Oh, I know, I know, pick me!  How about actually considering your team’s input vice making them feel like you are?
  • “In summary, the most useful tools leaders have at their disposal include a ready array of stock phrases and clichés, as well as a thorough disregard for democracy in the interest of an effectively administered organization.” While I agree that most organizations don’t operate democratically, they do operate on the backs of the potential of their members.  Slick lines made up of stock phrases do nothing to leverage that potential.

What can we learn from this?  There are many sources providing leadership advice.  Choose carefully.


Three Things You Need in a Leader

Timing is everything.  Even as British politicians sort through the confusion that is a hung parliament to arrive at a coalition government, a leadership conference was taking place well below street level, in the War Room used by Sir Winston Churchill to run operations in 1940.  This conference, staged by the The Said School of Business (Oxford University), included government, industry and military leaders in a forum designed to identify what it takes to lead in the modern world.

What did they come up with?  Well, as noted by the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the event, they identified these desirable traits:

  • a leader needs moral courage
  • a leader needs to be able to take risks
  • a leader needs passion

Although this seems to be a simplified list when compared with all of the scholarly literature on leadership, it speaks to me.  I admire it for its very simplicity.  In fact, if you can find these three things within yourself, you have what it takes to lead.  If you can’t?  Consider stepping back.