Leadership hypocrisy, that's a rather startling phrase isn't it? Truth be told, you're probably waiting to see what I have to say about some slimy individuals who have cheated their customers, scammed their vendors, and profited grotesquely while their employees have barely earned a sustainable wage. Nope. Leadership hypocrisy can be much more subtle. It's not seeing the unintentional things you do that cause your employees to lose respect for you and to disengage from you and the organization. Let me share just two examples.
1 - Your personal life isn't personal. Before a recent presentation, "Ruth" shared that her boss, the CEO, really should be the one to attend as he doesn't have a clue how to lead. He's a jerk. Morale is terrible, etc. During my presentation I discussed the importance of leaders modeling the organization's values. As I did so, I noticed a change in Ruth's demeanor. She became quiet and thoughtful. The next day she called me, "Your talk made me take a hard look at myself. You see I'm in a relationship with another senior manager here and....he's married. We keep it quiet, but I think it may bother a few members of my team." Yes Ruth, I think it might. It probably bothers the CEO too, but he isn't addressing the "issue" and therefore the "issue" continues to be a point of frustration for employees -- even though it's a personal matter. As a leader, be clear on this fact: Your personal life is NOT personal. If you plan to hold your team members accountable to your organization's values, ensure there's little in your leadership and personal behaviors they can judge you negatively on - because they will.
2 - Don't over use your position power. As leaders, every now and then we need to say, "No, I want it done this way" to move things along for the good of our companies. We can do this because, we're the boss. However, when we over-do it and use our "position power" too often, we end up demoralizing our team members and cause them to shut-down on us. Without meaning to, we cause the teams we've been working to develop to stop developing. During a coaching call a few weeks ago, Robin shared a frustration: Even though he's the designated successor to the General Manager, his ideas for organizational enhancements are routinely shot down with comments such as, "That's not a bad idea, but you're not the General Manager yet and you're not an owner so just table it for now." Ouch! That's not even a tad bit subtle! If employees need to be part of the ownership team before their ideas will count, that's your right. Then let them know that. However, if you keep asking for ideas and input, but then shoot down their ideas because the employees don't have the "authority" to share ideas--stop asking for their input!
Leadership hypocrisy isn't hard to identify. Leadership hypocrisy is behaving in ways that don't pass the good old newspaper test: "Would I be embarrassed if what I just said or did appeared on the front page of the newspaper or was blasted all over the internet?" As leaders, we've all done things that could be defined as hypocritical. However, if we're effective leaders, we learn from our mistakes. We realize our most impactful teaching moments occur when we simply model the behaviors we expect of others. We do no less than we ask of others. We're not hypocritical; we're leaders.