The Seduction of Power

The John Edwards trial has produced some interesting testimony, none more so than Andrew Young, the ex-aide who said the lure of power caused him to claim he was the father of Edward’s baby with his mistress.    “Being friends with the most powerful person on earth – there are benefits to that”.    Pride and power are seductive.  They are beasts you think you can ride, but they suddenly turn  devour you.   Young made a choice to lie, to assist in a cover up – all in the hopes of gaining influence and power from a man who might be President.

If he had stopped in the moment and asked the question – what are the consequences of this choice? – he might not have agreed to the cover up.  A well played game of “what if” can keep you from succumbing to the lure of lust, greed, or power.  Just imagine what would happen if you got caught.  What would you have to say to your family?  What would the headline in tomorrow’s paper be?  Had Andrew Young played ‘what if’ when he was asked to play a part in the cover up , he might have imagined the headline “Edwards Ex-Aide Says Power was Motivation.”  Write the headline that might appear if your choice to purse power got the better of you.  What would happen to your family, your business, and your friendships?  Would you be in prison?  Financially ruined?   A well-thought through session of “what if” can make real the potential consequences of falling prey to a lack of integrity.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   Even more thought provoking, the Bible says: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)  That came true for both John Edwards and Andrew Young.

Power, character, and integrity are a rare combination.  Which ones can you claim?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Being an Integrity Fanatic

Let’s start with the ugly.  I recently had a lapse in integrity – and was challenged on it by a neighbor –because I branded myself as the Integrity Fanatic.  He was right and it was painful.  At the same time, we’re all human and none of us is perfect.  It’s about whether we make amends and fix our bad choices that enables us to live out our commitment to integrity.  I had made a poor choice and voluntarily confessed and tried to make amends.  Unfortunately, he believed that as the Integrity Fanatic I should never, ever make a mistake.   That’s the ugly – unrealistic expectations.

Next is the bad.  It’s the word fanatic.  It means a person with extreme zeal – so I believe it defines who I am around integrity fairly well. But depending on which generation you are in, being a fanatic can be bad.  For the oldest generation in our society – born before 1945 – the word fanatic means passionately crazy – in other words, out of control.  And being out of control isn’t something they value.  I actually knew this when I picked the name, I just didn’t realize how prevalent the dislike would be in that generation. That’s the bad – there’s a group of people who simply don’t relate to the idea I’m trying to convey.

Finally, the good.  Calling myself an integrity fanatic has made me hold myself to a higher standard.  I was recently in line to enter a club with a cover charge – famous for it’s dueling pianos.  As I struck up a conversation with another person in line, she invited me to use the special entry word for the birthday party being held upstairs and save on the cover charge.  I found myself seriously considering it – and then remembering that wasn’t an option.  Similar challenges happen more often than I expected.   So while I could beat myself up for not having the right first response, I know that being an integrity fanatic has set a higher moral compass for me.  And that’s the good.

What Do Joe Paterno and Juan Williams Have in Common?

Both Joe Paterno and Juan Williams were fired by telephone.  Both had served their organizations and brought name recognition and success to the brands of Penn State and NPR.  Both deserved more respect than they received from their leadership. 

Whether you agree with their being fired, no one who has spent much of their career building the reputation of an organization deserves to be fired by telephone.  Leaders with integrity have the courage to go face to face to the people they’ve decided to release.  It demonstrates dignity and respect – and it keeps those who are still employed from wondering when they’ll be the next to receive “the call”.  Steven Sample, in his great book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, called it “shooting your own horse”.  A horse owner never asks someone else to put down his horse, and a CEO should never ask someone else to do the firing.   Leadership is about holding people accountable – even when you’ll take heat in doing so.  It’s also about having the ethics and  integrity to make that hard call in person.

Unethical “Ladder Climbing” in the Workplace

This is a guest blog from a colleague I met at National SPeaker Association UNconference.  Bonnie’s discussion is about a person who takes the ideas of others and promotes them as her own.  In my next blog, we’ll be discussing people who lead out of mutual fear vs. mutual trust.  Nancy

Fear, concern and even intimidation are very real feelings that develop in many work groups.  It’s not uncommon to see a group in which “ladder climbing”, striving, and metaphorically speaking, scratching, is done in order to put one’s needs and desires ahead of others’. I saw this recently in a group where I was consulting.  The operations manager was determined to be seen and heard above all others, to the point of bypassing her co-workers and staff members to achieve her goals. She was known to take others’ ideas and present them to leadership as her own.  What drives this type of unethical behavior? 

 Often unethical behaviors may surface while a group is involved in other activities. In this example, the group was learning how they could work together more effectively, and wanted to better understand their different behavior styles. They had previously taken personality assessments and behavior profiling tools. It had not changed the fact that they were being influenced by one person wanting to have control. This person often overshadowed her boss. She wanted to make sure nothing changed and when she had control, she bypassed everyone else to maintain that. She would push her ideas on others, and failed to see her lack of ethics in doing so.

 To understand behaviors and conflict, we need to look at what’s driving the behaviors. The more aware we are of “what makes us tick”, the more aware we will be of what “makes others tick.” This shows we have concern for each other’s feelings. We can control outcomes of our relationships with others. In my work involving team building, workplace behaviors, and employee engagement, I use the Strength Deployment Inventory, (www.personalstrengthspublishing.com). It’s an indicator of behavior and motivational traits that help predict people’s awareness of how they affect others. (not a personality profile)

 This establishes baseline information for employees, and gives the team members an understanding of what’s behind their inclination towards ethical behavior (or not). Taking ownership and responsibility for our actions is an important piece of the behavior puzzle. When we use “tools” to better understand our behavior, we can take better responsibility. Being more flexible isn’t necessarily the answer, but respecting others’ views will help. What do you do to take responsibility for your behavior and what are the outcomes?

BIO:

Bonnie Mattick, speaker, author and founder of Unforgettable Outcomes, Intl, creates exceptional experiences for your employees and the customers they serve.  She will show you how to develop highly engaged, productive employees who are innovative in their jobs, and making connections with customers. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the corporate world, as well as working with such diverse clients in the quick service restaurant businesses, banking operations and government agencies.  Bonnie earned an MBA from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and an M.A. Ed. from Arizona State University.

Can I lie about my current salary on a job interview?

 Can I lie about my current salary on a job interview?

 This question was the headline in a Real Simple magazine column on ethics.  The article says 1 in 6 people looking for a job has done just that and then goes on to recommend that you not lie.  The author of the column says its “inappropriate” to do so – then says if that’s not enough reason not to remember that you’ll probably get caught. 

 Nowhere in the article is there a discussion about lying just being wrong.  A company that has a core foundation of integrity simply doesn’t want someone who lies – they don’t walk the talk.  If you’ll lie about your salary, what else will you lie about after you’re hired?   

 While I realize that we’re all human and at some point we all lie – I’m was just taken aback that a major national magazine would actually use this question as a headline in a article on ethics.  I guess I was hoping it was pretty clear that lying was wrong. 

 What do you think?  Am I wearing rose colored glasses?

Do you remember when you first sold out?

 I don’t’, but I think that’s because I’ve sold out too many times in my life.  I remember the last one, though.  I disagreed with a colleague about a decision, but it was easier to go along than to argue about it.  Even though my gut told me it was wrong, I sold out.  In the end, and we made the wrong choice and paid a price.  My failure to challenge him was a failure in integrity.

 

One of the realities of business is that we make a profit, and with it feed our families.  But sometimes the bottom line becomes too important to us.  Next time I hear the phrase – “what’s the bottom line?”  I’m going to balance that need for profit with integrity, character, and humility.  As Jesus said, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? “

 Today’s blog inspired by Higher Call

Integrity Challenge #3

A men’s’ clothing company has a core value of building a team oriented, collective work environment for  employees.  They track the number of tickets written by each salesperson.  Over the last two weeks, the manager, John, notices that Stephen has written significantly more tickets than others salesmen n the store.  John suspects Stephen has been cutting out other salespeople.  What are John’s options for modeling the core values of the store?

Are You A Post Turtle Leader?

It’s a phrase entering our language:   “Post Turtle” leadership.  When you see a turtle on a post, you know someone before you put the turtle on the post, it can’t move forward or backward, and it can’t get off.   It’s been borrowed by leadership consultants to describe leaders who didn’t get there by themselves, who don’t belong in leadership, who can’t get anything done. 

 I don’t buy it!  First, the accusation about leaders who didn’t get there by themselves is partly accurate.  Many times we follow a leader who has done immeasurable harm.  While we make every effort to find out what we’re getting into in a leadership role, there are, however, surprises that simply couldn’t have been predicted.  Leaders have to be prepared to make hard calls that will change their circumstances.   If you were lied to or the facts were disguised, you have the ability to either refuse to lead in a culture that refuses to practice ethics or to change that culture’s ethics. You’re not stuck!

 The second accusation is about leaders who don’t belong in leadership.  This usually occurs as a result of the Peter Principle – every employee rises to his level of incompetenceSo what should leaders do when they aren’t a fit for the job?  Leave and find a job that is a fit!  Life is too short to not spend it in your sweet spot.  One day you will roll out of bed and wonder what happened to the last 15 years of your life.  It’s a hard call, but for business leaders who squarely face the facts about their strengths, talents and skills and find a mismatch, the right thing to do is to make a change – to get off the post.

 The third accusation is that post turtle leaders can’t get anything done.  Leadership is about building relationships, collaborative interests, and creating energy that gets things done.  It may require skillful negotiation, transparency, paradigm shifts, or just plain trust building.  A true leader is one who gets things done in spite of opposition and difficulties.

Next week I interview the first woman negotiator from Ford Motor Company about her “post Turtle” moment.  How about you – how have you defied “Post Turtle” leadership?