No Posers Allowed in Leadership

by  Jennifer V. Miller  |  Self 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!

© paulacobleigh – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By jennifer-miller
Jennifer V. Miller is a leadership development consultant whose writing and digital training materials help business professionals better lead themselves and others towards greater career success.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Peter A. Mello  |  06 Oct 2010  |  Reply

It might come down to the definition of posing or posturing but I’d be surprised if every leader hasn’t “performed” while leading at one point or another in their career.

At a very young age I was put into a position of authority which required me to frequently exercise leadership. At times I found that I had to “perform” in order to create a desired outcome. I didn’t think then and don’t think now that there were any problems with this. I was still true to my values and authentic.

Of course, I was not there to experience it first hand, but your example seemed somewhere between friendly bantering among colleagues and blowhard bluster which can fall in the big white spaces between actually exercising leadership. Some are better than others but none are perfect.

Mary C Schaefer  |  13 Oct 2010  |  Reply

What a great example, Jennifer. It almost doesn’t matter why they did what they did. What matters is your reaction and others’ reactions. “The meaning of the message is the response it draws out (source: NLP).” You are probably not the only one in the room who was wondering what that was all about.

One of the best examples of “posturing” vs “leadership” I’ve seen is… well, I think I’ll post it to the LeadChange blog now that I think about it.

My Best,

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