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Leadership Hypocrisy


Leadership Hypocrisy

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. Leadership Hypocrisy

  3. 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.



Copyright MMXI - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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12 thoughts on “Leadership Hypocrisy”

  1. John Barnett says:


    Your post is spot-on accurate. As a retired Navy master chief, I have seen more than my fair share of leaders. Some were phenomenal, others were OK, and others needed to be booted over the side. I hate to use the tired cliche, "lead by example" but it's true. IMHO the best leaders are the ones who practice their preaching and develop the individual with the team in mind. Through trust and respect, they build teams that are effective and can give them just what they need to make good decisions. I know more than a few leaders who constantly use the “No, I want it done this way” methodology and their teams are in chaos with very poor morale. Who would want to work there?

    Your advice is perfect for any leader looking to improve the quality and effectiveness of their style. Great job and looking forward to the next post! 🙂


  2. Liz,
    Your post has power in its clarity. You took a sensitive subject and laid it comfortably in everyone's "lap".

    It might cause some discomfort and soul searching yet isn't that the beginning of most growth!

    I would add only that a leader doesn't have to be perfect. Hypocrisy is a problem for as you say, it can disengage others, from you the leader. Yet perfectionism can have the same deleterious effect.

    As leaders soul search through your "wonder-filled" post, I hope they also realize that small changes can make a big difference.

    Warmest regards,

    1. Thanks for your comments Kate. Yes you're right: perfectionism can also be a negative as some leaders expect too much of themselves and others. It's a fine balance to juggle authenticity and appropriateness. Thanks again for your comment. L

  3. Thanks John. Leadership isn't easy and even the best leaders at times make mistakes - and as you say - should be booted over the side. Yet the most effective leaders learn and move on as they set the example for others. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. L

  4. Insightful post - A question for all leaders - Are you relying strictly upon your job-granted positional authority to herd your fellows, or do you fly a flag that others wish to rally around? “Flag flying” is a metaphor for the “things” you provide when one is “in” the role of “being” a leader. It has been my experience that many underestimate the power of “how you are” – which in most cases is equally important to “what you do” -- If you empower others and foster an environment of trust and can also get projects done on time, scope and within the budget – what you do, and how you are (both) - travels before and after you. It becomes your “standard” or “flag” – folks are more readily inclined to be attracted by personal/professional “flags” with clear representations of past success (competence & completion) and future success (character & conditions) –

    1. Great point Chase! Yes "How you are" is a great way to also reflect to determine if you're truly walking the talk and setting the example. Thanks for sharing. L

  5. Liz, your article is definitely on point. Leaders sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are always being scrutinized for their actions and they must be mindful of their behaviors in and outside the company's four walls. I like to call it "demonstrating the mission" where leaders must live the life, and walk the talk as being examples of an organizations mission and core values. Anything less is definitely hypocrisy. Thanks for the great article.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dr. Stewart. Yes it is "demonstrating the mission" and live the life of a leader 24/7. Not an easy or acceptable concept for many wanna-be leaders. But then again, if leadership were easy, everyone would be one. Thanks again Pinky - L

  6. Lyn Boyer says:

    Liz, This is a topic we don't consider often enough. The first example is a great one. It is easy for us to see where others are ineffective or hypocritical. It is much harder for us to see it in ourselves. It takes courage and a willingness to face things we would rather not see.
    I enjoyed your perspective.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      As the old saying goes, when you point your finger at someone else, remember there are 3 fingers pointing back at you.

      Just another reason why leadership is hard and not everyone likes it or is good at it.

      Thanks Lyn.

  7. Dr says:

    Great post, Liz
    You clearly outline two examples of leadership hypocrisy that we all need to consider. I think many of these types of problems stem from the belief that being a leader is only a "position" in a particular organization/business.

    I believe leadership is not so much a title than a way of being, behaving, interacting with the people around you. I agree that a leader leads 24/7 and perfection is not the goal. The most powerful leaders have a mission that is clear, integrate their leadership into their lives, try their best to be impeccable in their words and actions and take accountability when a mistake is made.


    1. Liz Weber says:

      Great point Laura and I agree; leadership is more than a position - it's a 24/7 responsibility. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. L

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on October 17, 2011 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,