Call me cynical, but…

Posted June 30, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

So Michael Jackson passed away last week and, amidst all the emotional outpouring, I found myself reflecting (with a high degree of cynicism):  why do we repeatedly choose to ignore (or justify) bad behaviour when the person committing said behaviour is highly talented?

I am alluding to, of course, the fact that Mr Jackson was accused of some fairly horrendous acts against young boys.  (I know, I know… he was charged but never found guilty. But frankly, isn’t the itself charge enough?)

The bad behaviour of the rich and famous aside, the same issue holds true for leaders as well.  I find it fascinating that, as long as a leader is seen as “delivering”, their bad behaviour with colleagues is either blindly ignored or justified as a means to an end.

To make matters worse, we actually honour people for their bad behaviour.  There are countless awards programs that recognize “top” leadership where the #1 metric for measurement is business results (or the fact that their company is a lead sponsor of the awards program….oops, that’s me being cynical again).  It’s unclear what, if any, weight their ability to retain, develop and engage their employees plays into these awards.

I’m not saying that all award winners are undeserving… many are really terrific role models.  But there are definitely a batch of recipients who are well known for being absolute “jerks”.  They claim to “put people first”, but when the rubber hits the road, the people-first rhetoric ends up being road kill on the highway to profits.

No wonder trying to convince leaders to “be more people-centric” is like pushing a boulder up a hill when all around us, those who churn through people are often held up as shining examples of success.

In my experience, it’s not hard to spot lousy people leadership.  All you have to do is look closely at the tenure of individuals that work for that person.  Someone who’s churning talent faster than a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl is a sure-fire “results over people” type person.  And, don’t  just take it from me.  Jack Welch  has said that one of his measures of whether a leader was a success or not at GE was their ability to retain “A” players.

It’s time to shine the spotlight on truly balanced leadership (people PLUS profitability).  We’re currently recruiting senior executive panelists for our fall PowerRoundtable series.  If you know a leader that walks the talk (and is Toronto-based), please let us know.  Leave us a comment or send an email to

Happy leading!

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