Communicating as a Leader

Shameful Leaders – the Trouble With Wall and Main Street

Drew Stevens asked:

Copyright (c) 2008 Drew Stevens PhD

I just completed my morning coffee and dose of Wall Street Journal when I read that AIG the world’s largest insurer, spent $440,000 on a posh California retreat for its executives, complete with spa treatments, banquets and golf outings, the expense-spent days after a massive billion-dollar bail out. These egregious individuals used money-borrowed money for an annual sales feast.

Not only is there issue with the timing of the event, but also once again, we take issue with leaders that lacking critical thinking, empathy, and humility. While many pundits find concern with interest rates and liquidity, the true issues lie in the leadership of many banking and credit institutions. The avaricious leadership of many organizations operates in a callous vacuum with little concern for its most vital assets- employees and customers. The items binding these assets to leaders are trust and respect, which appear to feverishly diminish. The problem with many of these leaders is creating a Darwinian environment. It is difficult to question the morale and productivity issue when so many leaders are narcissists and employees abhor their leaders.

Fortunately, there is a microcosm of these leaders. Many others understand the value of the employee and the mantra of customer first. Curiously, what is it that separates quirkiness from exemplary? We believe it comes down to six basic premises.

Exemplars. It seems ages ago, but leaders once were within organization. Names such as Iacocca, Lincoln, Ford, etc, were associated with pragmatism and trust. Very few leaders allow innovation, collaboration and excel at organizational communication. Present leader must illustrate vision and value. They need to say what they mean and mean what they say. When more leadership personifies with names such as Jobs, Kelleher and Barrett, the trust factor will return.

Accountabliity. Our firm speaks of this much simply because there is not enough. Leadership simply does not hold individuals accountable. In addition, current boards of directors do not hold leaders accountable. Ethically – speaking boards and their directors continue morale corruption stemming from perennial relationships. These must terminate. Boards must develop from strangers and stakeholders that desire organizational best interests. Further, boards and executives must be accountable. Rather than pacify with bonuses, and options, underperforming leaders must amend or terminate

Action. Similar to issues of accountability, organizations must require timetables and action steps. Employees and executives bemoan work. We often hear how occupied individuals are. We constantly hear of the complaints related to massive workload. However, statistics show that workload relates to procrastination. If organizations are so busy individuals would not have time for cigarette breaks, lunch or in the case of AIG spa outings. Ethics. Where are the ethics in organization? After the debacle of Enron and World Com, Congress developed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to protect against flagrant behavior. Organizations cannot provide an ethics assessment for each leader, but clearly, organizations with issues lack leaders with integrity. When Boards of Directors place more checks and balances on the leadership, perhaps there is a return to normalcy.

Communication. Where is the feedback in organizations? Leaders must provide consistent and constant communication. A study by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2003 reveals leaders have a tremendous impact on an employee’s level of commitment, of which 70% is relationship. If communication is the core of any relationship, leaders cannot overlook the most vital tool. If leaders are too absorbed begin leaders, perhaps it is time for a change.

Trust and Respect. When leaders lose trust, they lose everything. We use an exercise in our workshops comparing good and bad leaders. The core or each is charisma and trust. Followers that trust leaders, do anything for them. Review history for great examples, from Attila the Hun, to Hitler to Saddam Hussein; the respective followers right or wrong, place all their faith because of trust. Similar to communication, trust is the core of great leadership.


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