I plan to make this a weekly feature on this blog, beginning with today’s post. I’ve done this type of post a couple of times already this year, breaking a story or two down in detail.

However, beginning with this post I will summarize the stories – some you’ve heard and some you probably missed – and give a big-picture statement about the the failure of quintessential leadership in each of them, and then invite you, as quintessential leaders, to do your own more in-depth analysis about the quintessential leadership failure aspects of each of them.

I do this because the heart and core of who I am is a coach. My role as a coach is to highlight and guide, but I firmly believe that each of us must actually put some effort into the analysis, the learning, and the application process to fully benefit from it. We’re on this journey to become fully quintessential leaders together. Therefore, we must all be engaged and participating in the process. I invite you to join me in meeting that goal.

The first story of unquintessential leadership that caught my attention this week was the FBI sting that left 10 Atlanta police officers facing corruption charges, when it became clear that they were accepting large sums of money from street gangs to provide protection during drug deals. Law enforcement is entrusted with protecting those of us who obey the laws – local, state, national – and removing those who don’t – street gangs and drug dealers certainly are among those – and this is yet another example of that trust and trustworthiness being broken.  That is unquintessential leadership.

For a detailed and in-depth discussion of the components and traits involved in building trust and being trustworthy, please purchase my eBook, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy. You can also purchase a paperback copy from Amazon or a Kindle version.

The second story also involves law enforcement – Chris Dorner, who was terminated by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009, and took a resoundingly unquintessential leadership route to protest what he believed was an unfair and unmerited – which it could well have been – termination. It doesn’t take much, from a big-picture point of view, to see how this is unquintessential leadership. Any claims that Dorner had about bias, prejudice, and mistreatment during his tenure and in his termination from the LAPD (he laid this out in a very coherent, well-organized document that shows this was an intelligent, sane man talking) were erased by how he chose to force the issue: with threats, murders, and hostage-taking. Eventually it cost Chris Dorner his life – who didn’t know that would be how it ended? – but if there were any real problems that he wanted addressed and corrected, no one will listen or do anything about it because the last actions of his life seem to support his termination.

Beyond the obvious – I do hope the obvious is obvious – what can we learn from this about how we resolve issues and about how our methods need to be consistent with quintessential leadership? It’s important to remember that not every issue, dispute, or disagreement is win or lose, with no in between. Some are. But those involve moral foundations and principles and are non-negotiable under any circumstances.

But for the everyday issues, disputes, and disagreements we deal with, are we able to see that a draw is sometimes quintessential leadership in action? The “how” we do something matters as much as the “what” and “why.” Are you the kind of person who draws a line in the sand about absolutely everything? If so, you’re not a quintessential leader.

I urge you to take some time to think about this in your own lives. I have seen many people with legitimate whats and whys go down in flames because of how they tried to address and resolve them. On the other hand, I’ve seen just as many people who had absolutely no basis for their whats and whys – in in many cases, were completely on the wrong side of everything – prevail because of how they dealt with them. Both of these are the extremes, but it should be a lesson for us.

Another story of unquintessential leadership this week involves a company. Carnival Cruise Lines failed all leadership tests this week with their handling of the result of an engine room fire on Carnival Triumph earlier this week. The right – and quintessential leadership – action would have been to send some means of rescue (ferries, another ship with support to do the transfer, etc.) out immediately. Carnival Cruise Lines didn’t do that because of the cost involved. Their greed – as well as their belief that their industry is “bullet-proof” – underlines the lack of quintessential leadership at this company.

I read a statement from Carnival Cruise Line CEO Gerry Cahill this morning and if I were on the board of directors for this company, he would have been terminated right after this statement: “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”  Failure was simply a matter of not providing a great vacation experience? Mr. Cahill is an unquintessential leader in action.

Another continuing story of unquintessential leadership this week are the Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. The “politics-as-usual” circus surrounding this highlights how much of a lack of any quintessential leadership there is in American politics. But freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas brought the unquintessential leadership spotlight on himself this week during the hearings. Read the story. This is not quintessential leadership. Period.

And the last story of unquintessential leadership that I’ll point out today is the story of Oscar Pistorius. You can read the story if you don’t know it already. Any time I hear of athletes involved in incidents like this, my first thought goes to overinflated egos – an unquintessential leadership trait. My second thought goes to the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional and Olympic athletes, which is illegal, unfair, and wrong – also unquintessential leadership traits – and the emotional and hormonal side-effects of those drugs, which can contribute to actions like these.

Ultimately, though, the full responsibility for this falls solely and completely on Oscar Pistorius. If he took performance-enhancing drugs, he knew the risks, and he made the choice. All the tears, shaking, and “strongest denials possible” won’t change the fact the he is responsible for every choice he made – including this one.

Comments
  1. iammarchhare says:

    What is scary to me isn’t so much Dorner as it is those who would sympathize with and even applaud his actions. I understand there has always been a contingent undercurrent in society that would support Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone and others, but it still worries me that there would be such a sizable group. It doesn’t say much for our society overall.

    I’m not sure I completely agree with your assessment of the Carnival Cruise Line situation. There are conflicting reports on the how and why of their actions, and I suspect the prudent thing would be to see if and where the dust settles. For example, some felt that sending a helicopter for a rescue would have simply increased panic. In addition, I have been in a couple of choppers, and even a Chinook can only carry so many passengers. My thought was why not rescue them via another boat, but I heard an explanation that walking a gang plank in two foot waves would have been very difficult for children, the elderly and some handicapped. I freely admit I don’t know what the right response would have been.

    Having said that, I believe the right response now would be for them to re-examine their emergency procedures to better account for just such an emergency. I mean, what good is a backup generator if the toilets are still overflowing? That makes no sense to me. It sounds like a design flaw, and it should be dealt with ASAP. Again, time will tell if they deal with this effectively or not.

    • I agree with you about the people who are lauding Dorner as some sort of folk hero. This goes back to the “how” issue and, quite frankly, I think this vigilante/revenge mindset is pretty pervasive. Although most people will never go as far as Dorner in acting upon how they think, it appears we are seeing an uptick in this kind of behavior.

      There are many problems with Carnival Cruise Lines, not the least of which is lack of disaster preparation and lack of adequate resolution to known design flaws (this same incident with an engine fire hit another of their ships in 2010) or an aging fleet that needs to be updated or replaced. This all supports my point that greed is a major component of how this company operates, because the cost to address those big issues is apparently, in the company’s thinking, bigger than the risk they take of something going wrong every time a ship in their fleet sets sail. Human life means less than the bottom line. That is unquintessential leadership, no matter how you slice it. Additionally, for their CEO to simply dismiss what happened as merely “we failed to give you great vacation” is reprehensible.

  2. […] A quick review of the week of March 15, 2013 finds further examples of unquintessential leadership already noted with two principles here previously. […]

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