On Leadership

“Do you want power?”  No hands go up.  “Okay, who wants the ability to influence so that they can make a positive difference?”  Everyone’s hand goes up.   These are the two questions I have been asking graduate and undergraduate students and the typical responses I have received.  And I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised about the response to power. Too many people have endured working for a power-hungry narcissist.  Or have been exposed to toxic people seeking and using power

Leadership is a dynamic process that involves leaders, followers, and context.  Generally, when we talk about leadership, we default to inspiring, uplifting, positive, moral, and ethical approaches to leadership.  We hold up as examples good leaders who were part of a dynamic process that generated positive results.  We assume that leadership and all of its complexity is automatically good.  But that is not the only reality.

Sometimes the interaction between the three factors of the leadership produces a negative outcome. 

Leadership is the “perennial issue,” at least that is how Deloitte described it in their 2015 Global Human Capital survey report.  No matter the survey, such as PwC’s annual CEO Survey or Willis Towers Watson’s annual Global Workforce Studies, leadership emerges as both a problem and solution.  Research details how businesses spend billions of dollars on leadership development, only to be disappointed with the results.  Why aren’t these leadership development initiatives producing the expected results?

Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star

Boorish behavior justified as “being authentic” is never justified, nor authentic.  Unfiltered and unmitigated words justified as “being authentic” are never justified, nor authentic.  Reckless actions and deeds justified as “being authentic” are never justified, nor authentic.  The flagrant disregard for basic rules of decorum and standards of decency justified as “being authentic” is never justified, nor authentic.

Words matter.  Behaviors matter.  Actions matter.  Trying to justify inappropriate words, inexcusable behavior, and damnable actions as being “authentic” is a perversion

I’m a sports guy.  I have played sports my whole life, and I love watching athletes compete.  I respect people who put it on the line, who get into the cauldron of competition knowing that they might lose, that they might fail miserably.  Yet, they have the courage to compete anyway.  They show up.

The same can be said about anyone who puts themselves out there, people who risk being vulnerable.  Politicians, activists, CEOs, and entrepreneurs are typical examples. But let’s