A Leader's Hypocrisy, in a Word

A Leader’s Hypocrisy, in a Word

During my career, I was directly led by a dozen or so different leaders. I have led thousands of employees and contractors and have advised and worked with hundreds of leaders directly, and thousands more, indirectly.

No matter the trappings or apparent success, across the experiences, there is a single word that always exposes a leader as a hypocrite.

The word is “I.”

If this post was intended to be a lighthearted approach and gentle reminder, the title could be the bumper sticker quotation, “There is No I in Team.” This is true. And it does make the point.

But my goal is to stimulate leaders who almost without knowing (and evidently without caring) continue to use the first-person “I,” “me,” and “my” in the context of communication with and about their team–to STOP it.

Use of the word “I” is necessarily exclusionary. “I” is not “you,” and certainly cannot be “we.” No matter the context in an organization, it is almost always a lie that “I did (or achieved, or decided, or created, or saved the day) this!”

Use of the word “I” reinforces the leader as separate from the organization and the team, when the position of ‘leader’ already confers this status, at least in part. This is egoic double-dipping of the worst and most demoralizing kind.

The word “I,” each time voiced and bounced off the eardrums of the troops, is a reinforcer that there is only room for a single leader, no matter the size and complexity of the organization. I have been in rooms of temporarily successful businesses and witnessed palpable cringing each time the word “I” is uttered, when it is obvious that nothing gets done without the team. It is demoralizing to hear and to witness. And sophisticated investors will hear the word “I” as a ‘tell’ of something to get to the bottom of.

Use of the word “I” exposes the leader as shallow in psychological and spiritual development. It is, I believe, safe to say that more fully developed humans move on from the toddler-level expressions of the dawning of separateness, “I want” and “I don’t want…” “Me,” and “Mine.”

In the earlier years of my career, my leadership self-esteem was so fragile that I couldn’t, with conviction, use any word but “we,” when it came to team communications. Plus, if something went wrong, I didn’t want to be standing alone when the blame was being parsed out. As I matured as a leader, I found the motivational and credit-sharing power in leading a team with words like,”WE achieved what WE set out to do.”

Using the term “we” always includes the leader. The cost of using it is only in ego currency that, in almost every case, is overvalued and not as readily tradeable as the leader believes. The impact on the team, and even on those outside it, is priceless. If you believe in the value of cost-benefit analysis, read this paragraph again.

In today’s leadership–more than ever before–how things feel and sound, are key reasons for top-performing team members (and whole teams) to stay and contribute where they are; or go where, at least from afar, the sense of a “WE” is beckoning and is in stark contrast to the “I”-led organization (or even sub-team). “I just love how it feels to be a part of this.”

If you happen to be a leader whose default is the “I” word, and you won’t even “try” (another one of those detestable words) to lose it, “YOU” are at a competitive disadvantage forevermore and will eventually lose your grip on yourself, your “me.”

Lose the “I” in your leadership vocabulary, except for one context. It is not only okay to say, “I made a mistake,” when it is true, it is a sign of a mature, healthy, leader.

~Will Keiper, co-author with Steve Chandler of The Leader and The Coach: The Art of Humanity in Leadership

#leadership #leadershipcoaching #businesscoach #coachingleaders #leadershipdevelopment #executivecoaching #leaderascoach #awareness #consciousleadership

The Leader & The Coach by Steve Chandler & Will Keiper
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