Posts Tagged ‘fraternization


obscene leadership

bossprofanityThere are some words so vile that you can only refer to them by their first letter; so inflammatory and degrading, you do not want to even go there. So why do those in positions of leadership insist on incorporating and even promoting these into their organizations?

The “N” word: Nepotism

Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. I once worked for a family-founded tech company: the father was the CEO, the mother was the VP, and the children were the directors. While this is the owner’s prerogative, it made it difficult for anyone without a certain last name to see any future. I also witnessed nepotism first-hand when I was assigned to an Air National Guard unit, as well as while working as a government contractor. I was told there were four or five main families that worked for generations there so be careful what you did and said. They weren’t kidding. Reminds me of an old joke:

“Rob,” the boss said, “you’ve been with the company for a year. You started off in the post room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-chairman. Now it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?”

“Thanks,” said the employee.

“Thanks?” the boss replied. “Is that all you can say?”

“I suppose not,” the employee said. “Thanks, Dad.”

When I returned to carry on my father’s legacy business, I waited for three months after his homegoing before taking the helm. I spent 28 years in completely unrelated and unconnected fields so I could develop my strengths and earn my own stripes. When I returned, people actually told me they had no idea that my father and I were related. Mission accomplished. Don’t build your town on nepotism, it’s an unstable foundation.

The “F” word: Fraternization

I know this word well from my time in the military. You associated socially only with those close to your rank. To do otherwise could result in disciplinary action. While team building is great, you’ve got to know where to draw the line. Fraternization leads to another disgusting “F” word: favoritism. And this is the kiss of death in any organization because it undermines the leader’s perceived or demonstrated ability to be fair or impartial. As my father used to say, “whatever can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.”

I was recently at a book discussion with a Philadelphia credit union where one of the employees shared that they had one-on-one time with the CEO where no question was off limits. The CEO said that you cannot be your employees’ friend and that the job of leadership is a lonely one because you have to closely guard your boundaries at all times. George MacDonald said it best: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” In his classic speech, The Price of Leadership, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones shares that the first price a leader must pay is loneliness.

The “C” word: Cronyism

Cronyism is the act of showing partiality to one’s close friends, typically by appointing them to a position in a company or organization despite them not necessarily being the best people for the position. This is best summarized by the old adage, “it’s not what you know but who you know”. While networking is a critical skill in business, it’s important to remain completely impartial to your friends when selecting individuals for a position.

Not doing so can get you in all sorts of legal and HR trouble and can manifest itself by creating a dysfunctional and inbred organization of groupthink stink. Abraham Lincoln said, “If friendship is your weakest point then you are the strongest person in the world”. Let’s face it, the fewer friends you have when making leadership decisions the more self-sufficient you are because you can maintain your objectivity. President Lincoln showed us that if you want to lead, you’ve got to master your enemies, not surround yourself with friends.

Leaders have to be hyper-vigilant for any signs or perceptions of these obscene trends. They cannot condone them in their organizations, and they cannot engage in anything even remotely related to these vulgar activities.


the judas principle

I was recently at a meeting where a member shared that a teammate had committed an act that was incongruent with what we stood for. The member was clearly shaken as he recounted the events that had transpired. How could one of us who had been so close have done something so at odds with what we stood for?

Being prepared for leadership doesn’t just involve talking about the upside. It’s easy to recount only our successes and accomplishments. It’s also about being aware of the dark side of what can happen to a leader, and the most damaging event is when one of your own turns against you.

A traitor is someone who starts to tear down something that he once was trying to build up. I have experienced this devastating event several times in my life. In some cases I wasn’t completely surprised. I chose to ignore the subtle symptoms and hope for the best. In others, I was caught completely off guard.

The higher you climb in your role as a leader, the greater the risk of this happening. It is imperative that you, as the leader, always maintain your position.  In the military we called it fraternization and there were clear rules against it. The troops don’t want you to be one of the boys, they want you to be the Officer in Charge. It’s tough, it’s even lonely, but it’s necessary. Whenever we get so close to subordinates that we treat them like surrogate siblings or friends, we lose our objectivity.

The other reason this happens to leaders is that they have something the traitor wants. And the traitor will work in a very supportive way until they gain access to the inner circle. They convince themselves all along that they are truly after what is best for the organization, but their hearts tell a different story.

It’s happened again and again throughout history. And unless you are surrounded by people with absolutely pure motives and hearts, which none of us are, it can happen to you. It’s just part of our human nature. Even the most righteous man is capable of evil acts.

So what do you do? Realize this is a fact of life. None of us is perfect and always pure in our motives. And realize that this is a part of life not designed to destroy you, but to make you wiser and stronger. Know those closest to you but keep a healthy professional distance, trust your instincts, and wear your scars with pride. Leadership is triumphant warfare. Don’t ever forget it.

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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April 2020

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