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Fool Me Once… Fool Me… Fool Me Can’t Get Fooled Again…

June 6, 2013

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Rally behind a strong leader. That’s what you do if you hope to survive a zombie apocalypse, right? In a situation that gives the notion of forming storming and norming a new and unexpected context, how do know who to throw in with? I mean, how is one to assess the merits of a leadership bid when the shit is hitting the fan? I don’t know about you, but if I’m not stepping up then I’m going to follow the person who most sounds like they have a plan. Someone who conveys to me that they have the knowledge, the experience and a working plan to keep me from becoming tartar for the zombie hoard.

Is it so different in the real world? When we interview with a potential supervisor are we not making our own assessment just as they are? When we stick with an organization part of the value proposition is having a leader in whom we can invest some faith. Right? I know that practical considerations abound (namely what other options do I have that will enable me to make my monthly nut)but at some point everyone has to assess whether or not they are working for a person they respect, or can tolerate, or at least will not take you down with them. Right?

We’ve spent time discussing habits and that I believe will make you a more effective leader. Collectively, in my opinion, it is an endeavor similar to the path that leads one to become a Renaissance man (or Woman). I have offered practical advice on moving in that direction.

What do you do until you get there? How do you avoid exposing yourself as being ill-prepared to lead? Or if you are on a team and are having doubts about your leader, what signs will lead you to conclude that you are, in fact, working for a disguised member of The Working Dead?

The list that follows, while being far from comprehensive, will provide you some initial clue. If you are a leader and you exhibit any of these behaviors, rush immediately to a bookstore, or the internet, or to a classroom. If your leader exhibits any of them, prepare yourself to step up or step away from the organization.

Courtesy of today’s inductee into The Working Dead Page of Infamy, Terry, I give you The 5 things leaders do that lose hearts and minds….

1. Use poor grammar. Communication is a vital skill for a leader. In addition to communicating content an effective leader must have the ability to instill a sense of authority. Right or wrong, that sense of authority can be enhanced or diminished by the artfulness, or lack thereof, of one’s speech. Minimally, a leader needs to be able to properly conjugate verbs and select and use words that they can actually pronounce. I would offer one caveat to this. If a leader is not a native speaker of a particular language I would make allowances because bilingualism is intellectually telling. And a final note: the only thing worse than having a boss who uses poor grammar is a team member who corrects said boss publicly.

2. Use crazy euphemisms, slang, or profanity. It has the effect of making a leader appear ill-mannered, uneducated or both. It diminishes the prestige of leadership and delegitimizes it. Terry once asked the team, after a difficult month, “if they were tired of sucking hind tit.”

3. Coin phrases devoid of meaning. At a meeting with Terry, when asked to offer thoughts on the subject of leadership, these words were uttered, “Leadership Defines Greatness.” The facilitator, a man who had worked with Jack Welch, paused as if struck. After what seemed to be careful consideration the facilitator said, “That’s one of those phrases that sounds good, but in reality means absolutely nothing.”

4. Ignore spell check when emailing. Enuff Sed!

5. Announce grand plans that never come to fruition. Better to under promise and over deliver when it comes to announcing strategy. Constant changes in direction, or relaying strategy perpetually in the future tense demoralizes and confuses a team. They chose not to adopt new strategies and instead take a wait and see attitude in order to determine if the new mantra is just the flavor of the day.

The presences of any of these is cause for alarm. If you see (or are doing) more than one of these, it is time to make some wholesale changes.

Don’t panic, there are rarely leaders so bad that we cannot overcome their impact.

Music is intellectual therapy. Allow me to share with you a classic from a Renaissance man who is, sadly, no longer with us.

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