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Find out about having Bill or Richard speak for your corporate or association meeting. Our signature program - "Contented Cows Give Better Milk - Your People, Your Profit" - can help you learn the secrets to creating a great place to work, to attract, retain, and get the most from the top talent in your industry.

By Bill Catlette
November 2006

At a time when our daily ‘diet’ seems to consist of ever increasing portions of sleazy, licentious, blatantly illegal, or just plain ole irresponsible behavior, a scream of “enough!” is welling up inside many of us. That is particularly the case when the bad behavior is associated with those in leadership roles...those whom we are supposed to respect and be guided by, if not follow.

The names are all too familiar, and answering to titles like Reverend, Congressman, or CEO, they derive equally from government (at all levels,) industry, and religious institutions. We won’t repeat the names here, in the interest of keeping your last meal where it belongs. You know who they are.

Regardless of the individual or offense, things seem to follow a fairly predictable path: Screw up (usually in direct conflict with the platitudes one mouths on a regular basis), get caught, deny, lawyer up, check in to a rehab center, and wait for the spotlight to shift elsewhere.

While no one has a right to expect leaders to be perfect, we do have a right to insist that they not abuse or dishonor the special trust that is placed in those who accept the mantle of leadership. Trust, for example that they will always attempt to do the right thing, even in the absence of guidelines. Trust that you will not forget the lesson, probably taught by your mother, about the difference between your stuff and other people’s stuff. Trust that you will have the fortitude to, as appropriate, subordinate your personal interests to those of others, and the organization. Trust that you will not only not use the power of your position to prey on or push around others, but that you will use that power to protect and defend them.

Whether one is a coach, girl scout leader, preacher, President, or 3rd shift supervisor, if you accept a position of leadership, you should be held to a higher standard, period. That is something we should regularly make clear and reinforce in our own organizations. While we’re at it, let’s also make clear differentiation between the law as a standard, and the ‘right thing.’ Someone said, very aptly we think, that, “the law is hardly a lofty standard.” More to our point, perhaps, is the Scandinavian proverb that admonishes us to, “beware of those who always step over the lowest part of the fence.”

Unfortunately, there may come a time when a person in a leadership position simply cannot continue because they have reached a point of ‘gross leadership failure.’ In short, owing to often subtle, but systemic breakdown in trust, they lose the confidence of those who would follow them. Since authority is granted by the led, this condition must not persist, as it will soon lead to greatly diminished performance and capability, and ultimately, breakdown of authority itself.

This week’s bloodbath via the national mid-term election in the U.S. was a partial unleashing of the aforementioned scream, and provides something of an object lesson. Unlike those who are occasionally caught with their hands directly in the cookie jar (or elsewhere) and ejected immediately, this week, a lot of people who were in power in the federal government were turned out because of less egregious but equally devastating offenses, like: Persistent unwillingness to listen to subordinates, superficial communications, passing the buck, indecision in the face of known misconduct, and the like.

While we don’t especially enjoy revisiting this rather unpleasant process, let’s see if we can learn something from it. At a minimum, let’s all spend an extra minute in front of the mirror making sure that the example we set for the folks in our organization measures up, and then, having done that, remind them that character still counts.

Leadership...the Workplace...Creating a Great Place to Work...Getting Discretionary Effort from Your Workforce. Every week, we speak to corporate and association audiences about these topics, at conferences, conventions, and management meetings.

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Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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