Posing, Posturing or Pretending - It's Not Leadership

Last week, my colleague, Jennifer V Miller asked us to contemplate this thought from Tom DeMarko:

"Leadership needs to be distinguished from posturing."

Posture, posing, pretending - whatever you call it, not only does it not look good, but it can create a significant dent in your credibility and your employees' willingness to follow your lead.

The thought reminded me... several years ago I heard a CEO talking about how well his company was doing. When it came to Q&A time I asked him how employees should reconcile that positive picture with knowing that some of their colleagues, at the same time, were losing their jobs due to downsizing. He responded with a very touching, inspiring anecdote about what another company did in a situation like this. But that didn’t answer my question.

I acknowledge that business is complicated, and paradoxes exist (e.g. business is great/people lose jobs), but please bother to try to explain it. I prefer the interpretation that he chose not to explain it to me vs. considering that the exec didn’t know the answer. Whatever the explanation for a response like that from a leader, everyone loses.

Over and over, responses that sound good, but really don't answer the question, makes organization members question the leader’s competence and their own respect for them, thus eroding the leader’s privilege to lead.  Moreover, constituents want to believe in their leader, so they expend energy to make things make sense.  But they are just going to spin in circles because it doesn’t make sense – and then there’s just another hit to the company’s productivity because energy is being siphoned to unproductive activity.

Some say that character doesn't count any more in leadership.  And despite any example that seems to support that case, know this – the laws of human nature can’t be cheated. People know when they are being avoided, disrespected, or exploited. Everyone, including the business, loses.

Or is this just a cost of doing business?

Adapted from post at Mary's blog: http://www.reimaginework.com/category/blog/