No Posers Allowed in Leadership

While doing some research for a blog post, I discovered this statement embedded in a Wikpedia article on leadership:

Tom DeMarco says that leadership needs to be distinguished from posturing.[3]

So succinct a statement, yet so powerful in its implications.

Think for a moment, about a typical meeting in corporate America. In how many cases did you observe posturing masquerading as leadership? I recall one meeting in particular that entailed a group of mid-level managers reporting out quarterly departmental results to a senior manager.  One by one, the managers reported out their results. Two of the departments were neck-in-neck in an unspoken “ratings race”; their department managers were “Pete” and “Sally”. After the report-out was completed, Pete made a big show of handing an invisible item to Sally.  Puzzled, she asked what he meant. “That’s a big ole’ can of Whup Ass” he replied smugly. “Next quarter, we’re gonna beat the pants off of you.” Sally of course, did not take this lying down. “Ha!” she retorted, “Not on your life! You’re on!!”

On the surface, this example is nothing more than a bit of good-natured ribbing amongst highly competitive peers. As an observer, though, I found myself wondering, “who was that performance for?” — each other. . .the senior manager. . .or a bit of both? I sensed a subtext to the conversation that validates Mr. DeMarco’s quote; something that spoke to a deeper need for each individual to publicly stake his or her claim to the “Top Dog” position in departmental achievement.

Leadership isn’t about how good you look at quarterly meetings. Some of the quietest people I know are the most effective leaders. No amount of posing is going to compensate for poor leadership skills.

That’s what I take away from this quote.  What’s your interpretation? I’d love to hear it!

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