Posts Tagged ‘dishonesty’

This post will do a quintessential leadership analysis of Henry VIII during the years between 1525, when Anne Boleyn came on the scene and Catherine of Aragon became an inconvenience, and 1536, when Anne Boleyn was executed.

It’s important to note at this point that although Catherine of Aragon produced only one child – Mary I – during their marriage (she had several miscarriages, as did Henry VIII’s Catherine of Aragonother wives, which now seem to have been scientifically linked to Henry VIII himself, who may have had a rare blood type known as Kell positive), up until 1525, she and Henry VIII seemed to have had an amiable marriage, in spite of Henry’s philandering.

Anne Boleyn, who often carries the lion’s share of the blame for what happened to Catherine and in England during the next 11 years, was in fact only a single factor – although perhaps the tipping one –Anne Boleyn in what led to the tumult and upheaval within the royal family, the country, and the church during that time.

Several factors had an impact on why Henry VIII suddenly reversed himself on the legality of his marriage to Catherine in 1525 after they’d been married for 16 years (their marriage would not be annulled by the Church of England until 1533, but Catherine of Aragon never accepted the decision and maintained that she was Henry’s wife and the queen until her death from natural causes in 1536).

The French monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire, Thomas Wolsey, and Henry’s and Wolsey’s enemies at court were major players in where English international relations were in 1525 and how they were quickly thrown up in the air and changed dramatically within a year.

By 1520, France and the Hapsburg dynasty were becoming the powers to be reckoned with in Western Europe. In 1520, eager for a Franco-Anglo alliance, Thomas Wolsey arranged a meeting between Francis I, the king of France and Henry VIII at Field of the Cloth of Gold in the Netherlands in 1520.

Henry and Francis were very much alike in their educations, interests, and athleticism. They were also both extremely competitive. In addition to the political purposes of this meeting, tournaments had been arranged to show off the skills and abilities of the two young kings with the agreement that they would not compete against each other.

Henry broke the agreement – an act of unquintessential leadership that he became well known for – by challenging Francis to a wrestling match in which Henry emerged as the loser.

As a result, no alliance came out of the two-week meeting and relations with France were definitely worsening.

Not long after the Field of the Cloth meeting, the ever-scheming Wolsey, whose greatest aspiration was to be a pope, decided to throw England’s lot in with Charles V, who was at the time the king of the Hapsburg dynasty.

(After defeating Pope Clement VII in Rome in 1527, Charles and Pope Clement became allies. In 1530 Pope Clement VII crowned Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor, so Charles’ ties to the Roman Catholic Church were not only strong and close, but unbreakable, and he could exert a lot of influence over papal decisions.)

Charles V was also the nephew of Catherine of Aragon and his allegiance to his aunt was unquestioning.

In the 1520 meeting that Wolsey arranged between Charles V and Henry VIII, they agreed to form an alliance against France, with Charles providing the land power and Henry providing the sea power. In addition, Mary I was betrothed in marriage to Charles V, which strengthened the bond of the alliance.

Charles led a very successful campaign against France, capturing Francis I in the first battle in 1525. This was also the year that Anne Boleyn came to court.

The same year Henry named his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, as heir to the throne, and gave him the titles and lands that would ensure his succession. The move infuriated Catherine, who believed Mary should be the heir to the throne, and perhaps initiated the bitterness that consumed her, understandably, the rest of her life.

Even though Henry had a male heir in place, he still wanted a legitimate male heir to succeed him. This driving desire brought out other unquintessential leadership traits in Henry that would be present the rest of his reign: changing the rules when they didn’t suit him, bullying, and trying to force everything to go the way he wanted it to and if it failed, blaming anyone and everyone involved and eliminating them by arrest on false charges and execution. The bloody period of Henry VIII’s reign was about to begin.

Anne Boleyn had already caught Henry’s eye. However, she refused to become his mistress and indirectly told him the only way Henry could have her was if Anne was his wife. Eager for a legitimate male heir and convinced, probably accurately, that Catherine would never be able to give him a male heir, Henry sought a way to dissolve his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Citing “new ecclesiastical understanding” based on Leviticus 18:16, Henry met with Wolsey and told him that God had cursed the marriage and he wanted Wolsey to go to Pope Clement and have it annulled. Henry used the issue of not knowing whether the marriage between Arthur and Catherine had been consummated (it is unlikely it was and Catherine maintained that it had not been, in which case the scripture wouldn’t apply), but passionately said that piety and obedience to God left him no choice but to end the marriage.

Wolsey was a shrewd politician and understood the position Henry was putting himself and Wolsey in politically and religiously and tried to talk Henry out of divorcing Catherine. Henry, showing another unquintessential leadership trait, refused to listen and demanded that Wolsey obtain the annulment. 

Pope Clement VII, at first, simply ignored Wolsey’s request. At the time, he and Charles V were enemies, and he knew that granting the annulment would have serious consequences for Rome. Henry kept pushing Wolsey and Catherine began a campaign of her own to save the marriage by sending surreptitious messages to Charles asking him to intervene.

When Charles heard that Henry wanted to divorce his aunt, while he did not intervene then with the pope, he immediately ended his engagement to Mary and took a wife. When Henry found out, he ended his alliance with Charles and entered into an alliance with France against him.

Meanwhile, Wolsey was between a rock and a hard place. Pope Clement, who had by now been captured in Charles’ defeat of Rome, had given him the authority to have a convocation of the cardinals in England to get the facts together, but had denied them any authority to make a binding decision. 

The struggle between the pope and Wolsey and Henry, who by 1528 had declared, in another unquintessential leadership stance, the sole and supreme religious and political law in England. While Henry didn’t directly, at this point, say the church in Rome didn’t have any authority over him, he certainly implied it. Henry began to take his case to the citizens of England, hoping to gain mass support from his subjects. 

He had two big obstacles. One was the sheer power the Catholic church had over aspects of the average Englishman’s life. The church was the center of English life. The second was Catherine’s popularity among the people, and the sense they had that she was getting a raw deal from Henry.

Obstacles like these never deterred Henry. As an unquintessential leader, he just bulldozed over everything that stood in his way, doing whatever he wanted to get the outcome he wanted. He certainly lived by the motto that “the end justifies the means.”

Wolsey continued to unsuccessfully try to obtain the annulment. Finally, Henry got fed up with his failure to do so – and because Anne Boleyn didn’t like and didn’t trust, for good reason, Wolsey and urged Henry to get rid of him – and had him arrested in November 1530 on charges of treason. Wolsey died of apparently natural causes – but who knows? – on his way to his trial on those charges later that month. Had he not, there is absolutely no doubt he would have been convicted and executed.

By 1531, Henry had moved further toward openly questioning the authority and the power of the pope and the Catholic church. He sent all the evidence for the divorce and the ensuing cardinal convocations with papal restrictions to the leading theological scholars at all the major universities in Europe to ask for their opinions. They were all in agreement that Pope Clement had exceeded the limits of his power and authority.

He also had English theologians developing reforms to the church in England, which included non-papal and non-Roman authority but only English authority – with the ruler as the head of the church – and he took the legal arguments to Parliament to adjudicate in December of 1531. Parliament also agreed that the pope had abused his power.

Pope Clement obviously was not happy with these developments and warned Henry of excommunication if he continued. However, Henry barged forward.

Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief statesman and an ardent supporter of the English reformation (a position that led him down a path similar to Wolsey’s in actions and made him a hated enemy of those in the English court who did not want to break with Rome), called a meeting of the English bishops in which he charged them with treason because of their loyalty oaths to the pope which conflicted with their loyalty to Henry.

The bishops realized the untenable situation they – and their lives – were in, and when they were brought to court to face the charges at Henry’s request, they offered Henry money and pledged their loyalty to him as “the supreme head of the Church of England.”

Henry took the bishops’ pledge to Parliament in January of 1532 and demanded that they produce official legislation that codified the pledge of loyalty to him, while keeping Catholicism as the official faith of England. This precipitated the final break with Rome.

In 1532, Thomas Cromwell engineered a meeting between English church officials and Parliament from which a conclusion was reached that an appeal to Rome about the dissolution of Henry and Catherine’s marriage was not necessary. The result was an English conclave of the bishops and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the decision was made to allow the divorce of Henry and Catherine.

This resulted in the immediate severance of the English church from Rome, Henry being excommunicated, and the door opened for his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Catherine, however, continued to appeal to Rome, as a Catholic in good standing, until her death to intervene and restore the marriage. The bridges that Henry burned made her appeal fall on deaf ears.

In January 1533, with a new/old (Henry never gave up his Catholic beliefs and the Church of England stayed essentially Catholic in theology and look and feel, much as it does even today) church in place with Henry as its supreme leader, Henry and Anne were married.

Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had now becomes more apparent: the chase appeals to him far more than the conquest. By all accounts, the marriage was tumultuous. Henry began cheating on Anne almost immediately, and she, unlike Catherine, but very much like Henry, was strong-willed, opinionated, and not afraid to fight with Henry. Anne also made many enemies at court because she was  a strong person, so there were many people eager for a chance to undermine her and get rid of her.

Perhaps Anne’s worst fault, in Henry’s eyes, was that she didn’t give him a legitimate male heir. The marriage produced a daughter, Elizabeth I, in September 1533, who in the end succeeded Henry VIII, but not without her own wild and crazy ride to succession, but if there were any other pregnancies, they ended in miscarriage.

Anne’s enemies in court, sensing Henry’s disillusionment with her, began badmouthing her to Henry as early as 1534. Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had is that he listened to and believed them because it would give him an excuse to get rid of her and marry again in hopes of producing a legitimate male heir.

On May 2, 1536, Henry had Anne arrested on charges of adultery (unproven) and witchcraft (also unproven, but the highly-charged superstitious mindset that had developed during the Middle Ages and cast a long shadow over human thinking until the 18th Century, was very much alive and well), among others.

Anne was executed by beheading 17 days later on May 19, 1536. That this is unquintessential leadership should go without saying.

In the next post, we’ll do a quintessential leadership analysis on the last 11 years of Henry VIII’s life and reign.

Beginning this week, I will be starting a new series of posts that will evaluate how quintessential – or not – the leadership of well-known people in history that held leadership positions was.

This idea came as an outgrowth of a request from a very good friend of mine to consider writing a “real” history book – an idea that I’m researching and considering seriously – to counter all the mostly skewed, angled, and sometimes outright untrue information that passes for history these days – in education, in non-fiction writing, and on the internet. 

It seems that we, as humans, have become lazy enough to believe just about anything without proving or disproving it and we like “smooth words” more than the truth.

The history of humanity is ugly. If we, as quintessential leaders, look honestly and closely at ourselves, we’ll admit that some of our personal history is ugly too. It seems, though, that a lot of people would rather just lie about it or doctor it up, instead of facing it and doing something about it to clean it up and make our future histories not ugly.

Once lies and deception become part of our histories and established histories, then we’ve lost the battle for change, for betterment, and, in fact, to become quintessential leaders. Let’s be sure that we’re not afraid to be honest, with ourselves, with our histories, with the world’s history. Only when we face the truth about all of these are we ever in a position it to change it and do something better and different.

This month, in U.S. news, two prominent people in leadership positions in the sports world who have shown themselves to be thoroughly unquintessential leaders have emerged. One of the ties between these two people – Lance Armstrong (7-time Tour de France winner) and Manti Te’o (the highly-touted former Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up) – is that of broken trust as a result of blatant dishonesty, spin, angling, the blame game, and outright deception.

As quintessential leaders, it is absolutely imperative that we understand how trust is built and how we become and stay trustworthy, because as is the case with Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o, once trust is destroyed and trustworthiness is gone, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ever get back.

My eBook, “Trust & Trustworthiness” provides a compellingly insightful and comprehensive compilation of the quintessential leadership components of building and keeping trust and becoming and being trustworthy and what they look like in practice.

Although I enjoy sports, professional cycling and college football are two sports I don’t have any interest in nor do I really understand exactly what the mass appeal of them is.

However, I would have had to have lived under a rock for the past twenty years or so not to have a fairly good knowledge about Lance Armstrong and his career. The interesting thing about Armstrong, though, is that years ago, when he really hit his stride and became a household name, I observed a certain disconnectedness and ruthless coldness about him that made me uncomfortable. His eyes, I think, betrayed him. When the then-rumors about his doping began to swirl, I believed they were more than just rumors and were probably credible.

Armstrong vehemently insisted for years that he had never used drugs to enhance his physical performance and continued that steadfast denial even in the face of the irrefutable proof of his usage of banned substances and his distribution of those substances to others in the cycling world in the 1000+-page report from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released in June 2012.

One of the most disturbing things I observed about Lance Armstrong during this period of accusations and denials was his viciousness and his determination to destroy as many lives as possible along the way. His behavior seemed more like that of a sociopath than of a man defending himself against unfounded and baseless claims. He spent a lot of time and energy ridding himself of accusers and, in his mind, enemies, fingering them as being cheaters and liars and claiming to be a victim of vindictiveness spurred by jealousy over his accomplishments.

After seeing portions of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and reading the full transcript, it turns out that Armstrong was the cheater and the liar all along. Watching his body language and his eyes and observing the calculated and emotionless responses to Winfrey’s questions, it’s clear that Armstrong has strong sociopathic tendencies and that is the epitome of unquintessential leadership.

The first thing that I noticed about Lance Armstrong in the actual interview clips was that he still doesn’t believe he did anything wrong – and he never will. There is no contrition. There is no regret. There is no remorse. There is no guilt.

There is nothing behind the very feeble gestures that he’d like us to believe are admissions of dishonesty, wrong-doing, and cheating. No one who knows this man should ever expect a genuine apology from him. Whenever someone starts this statement: “I guess I’ll have to apologize…,” that person is not convicted within him or herself of his or her guilt, culpability, or the need to right a wrong. 

In Lance Armstrong’s mind and heart, he’s innocent of any wrong-doing. One of his claims to defend his doping is that “everyone else was doing it.” That’s the oldest excuse in the world, but only unquintessential leaders use it. All the other wrongs in the world don’t make a quintessential leader’s wrong right. Wrong is wrong and right is right.

People in leadership positions set the example for those they are responsible for leading. So when Lance Armstrong dopes, lies, cheats, and blames and crushes other people, what example is he setting? It’s unquintessential leadership on steroids, pun intended.

The most telling quote for me of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was this one about cheating: “At the time, no. I kept hearing I’m a drug cheat, I’m a cheat, I’m a cheater. I went in and just looked up the definition of cheat and the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don’t have. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”

This is the heart, core, soul of Lance Armstrong. He has no integrity and he epitomizes the very worst – the opposite of quintessential leadership – of unquintessential leadership.

Manti Te’o, the former Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy contender, has a shorter, but equally unquintessential leadership track as that of Lance Armstrong. Another appalling aspect to this story is the same kind of unquintessential leadership being shown by Notre Dame’s executive staff, most notably athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, who has countered Deadspin’s revelation of the fraud and dishonesty perpetrated by Te’o by continuing to assert that Te’o was the victim of a hoax.

Te’o’s story of the death of his grandmother and girlfriend within a 12-hour period of each other fueled sympathy and admiration both by the media and the public for the young football player in September of 2012.

However, as Deadspin revealed this week, the story was a lie. Te’o’s grandmother did die in September 2012, but there was no girlfriend and no subsequent death from leukemia. It turns out that this was a publicity move of dishonesty and fraud – probably to up the chances of Te’o winning the Heisman Trophy and being drafted higher in the NFL – that, no matter what the assertions of Te’o and Notre Dame officials are, Te’o was intimately involved in and continually purported to be true.

The fact that Te’o actively participated in the fraud is what highlights his own and Notre Dame’s lack of quintessential leadership. How Notre Dame’s athletic director can keep telling people that Te’o is an innocent victim of a hoax when Te’o’s own words convict him and show him to be thoroughly involved in the web of deceit is beyond comprehension. It seems that once people go down the road of dishonesty, eventually they begin to believe their own lies to the point that truth is never and can never be within their grasps again.

Te’o’s dishonesty, with Notre Dame’s apparent approval and backing, has destroyed any credibility – and that includes trust and trustworthiness – he had. Even if he is drafted by the NFL (personally, I think they’d be crazy to draft him), no one will ever trust him again. He has proven himself to be an unquintessential leader: unreliable, undependable, dishonest, untrustworthy, and selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed.

Te’o, in the end, like Lance Armstrong, and like every other unquintessential leader, is all about himself. They don’t care about the team or the truth. They have no integrity. They lack any authenticity. They are pretenders, wannabe’s, and examples of the opposite of what we as quintessential leaders want to be, should be, and, indeed, must be.

There is a proverb that says insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That quote is commonly attributed to Albert Einstein, but there is no definitive proof he actually said it. However, being pretty familiar with Albert Einstein as a person, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, it seems very consistent with the way he thought and lived his life and did his work.

Organizational dysfunction starts with this definition of insanity. The reality is that most organizations that exist, wherever or in whatever sector of the world, have some dysfunction in them. Humans, by nature, are dysfunctional, and since humans make up organizations, it follows that dysfunction, to some degree, will exist.

With quintessential leadership at the top, though, most of the dysfunction can be changed or eliminated so that the organization itself is not dysfunctional.

However, when there is no quintessential leadership at the top levels of an organization, the organization becomes dysfunctional. The interesting thing about dysfunction, which is abnormal or impaired function, is that once it becomes the norm, it only gets worse until the whole system – in this case, organizations – fails and eventually dies.

Ironically, as organizations get more dysfunctional, the more effort people in top leadership positions put into attempting to save the organizations from death by doing the same wrong, non-working, and sometimes just plain dumb things that made the organizations so dysfunctional to begin with. When I see this, it reminds me of someone hyperventilating and when the panic of not being able to breathe sets in, the person hyperventilates even more, making it even more impossible to breathe.

It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense, does it? And, yet, in every dysfunctional organization, when the big picture is analyzed to see how the organization got to where it is and what the organization’s response is, it’s the same reaction as a person who’s hyperventilating and panics.

There are many obvious signs of organizational dysfunction and a lack of quintessential leadership at the top, just as there are signs of deepening dysfunction within an organization, but I’ll cover just a few of these here today.

A tell-tale sign of organizational dysfunction is elitism and an upper class (who’s important) and everyone else (who’s not). If you see “us” and “them” or “we’re special and you’re not” in organizational thinking, you’re dealing with organizational dysfunction.

Elitism and upper classes are created by a group of people, starting with the people in top leadership positions, who confer on themselves (and make sure everyone else knows), with no basis for doing so, an elevated and special status above everyone else in the organization. This group pitches this status out like a bone to a dog to the rest of the organization as something to aspire to and it creates minions and sychophants who, driven by a desire to be part of the upper class and have its self-conferred power and nothing else, will do anything, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad to get there.

These people naturally float to the sub-leadership positions (because all dysfunctional organizations have an elaborate multi-class structure) because they will also agree with everything the elitists say, do, and promote. This is a key reason why organizations get more dysfunctional because there is no one in a leadership position who is a quintessential leader and will say, “This isn’t working and we need to figure out why and how to correct it,” or “That’s wrong; here are the right ways that could be done,” or even “That’s a dumb idea. It’s failed over and over, so it’s time to start over and figure out how to implement a smart, workable idea.”

The irony is that the more dysfunctional an organization becomes, the less disagreement of any kind is tolerated, which means there’s simply no place for quintessential leadership in that organization in a way that will bring the organization out of its dysfunctional state (there will always be a few quintessential leaders even in the worst of dysfunctional organizations, but they will be mostly invisible except to the people who work directly with them).

When an organization reaches extreme dysfunction, then absolute agreement with everything about the organization becomes the mandate that is explicitly communicated to every individual in the organization with some sort of “either you’re with us or you’re against us” or “if you don’t agree, you might as well leave” statement attached and the threat of elimination from the organization if disagreement is found (whether expressed or suspected as a result of intense coercion, which is often employed at this point, to root out dissension).

Another sign of organizational dysfunction is that the people in top leadership positions make sure they’re taken care of, no matter what, to the exclusion of the rest of the organization. An example that illustrates this, which I read earlier this morning on Forbes’ website, is that of Hostess executives getting bonuses for the liquidation of the company while 18,000 people are losing their jobs.

The dysfunction of an organization begins when that organization structures itself by corporate charters and organizational documents so that the elite are protected and taken care of, while there is no similar protection or care given to the rest of the individuals in the organization (who fall into an “at-will” class – so, yes, there is a bottom class!). Additionally, and this is duplicitous and egregiously wrong on every level, many organizations use these founding documents to ensure that people who’ve been identified as the elite of the elite are the only ones eligible to assume the top positions in the organization. Often, these same organizations will offer a public posture of opening the floor up to democracy in filling these positions, which is dishonest, while the elite have made sure that only the people they want to fill those positions actually meet all the criteria.

And this sign leads to the next sign of organizational dysfunction, which is a lack of trust, a lack of respect, and a lack of loyalty to the organization by the individuals in that organization who are not in the elite class.

From an objective and big-picture standpoint, this is the inevitable result of watching, as a part of, an organization form dysfunctionally, operate dysfunctionally, and be seemingly clueless that its dysfunctional. 

And the response from the elite is just as baffling. They become more dysfunctional and the organization becomes more dysfunctional.

Instead of the elite looking around them and at themselves and realizing they’ve created and are perpetuating and worsening the organizational dysfunction, they make all the non-elite individuals in the organization the problem.

This is communicated in statements like “we don’t get the respect we deserve” and “nobody cares about loyalty anymore”. The reality is that when people in top leadership positions create and perpetuate dysfunctional organizations, it involves trust-breaking tactics (dishonesty, manipulation, and deceit, to name a few) and the result is a lack of loyalty to the organization (really, who in his or her right mind is going to pledge loyalty to an organization that, first, is not loyal to him or her, and second, has proven a lack of integrity by its actions?).

Once those statements are communicated, then the next step by the elite is to try to dictate and demand respect and loyalty by imposing very constrictive restrictions on the individuals in the organization. This creates a very hostile environment and destroys morale and motivation. 

At this point, the dysfunctional organization is already in the actively dying process. Some of the non-elite will start looking for an environment where quintessential leadership exists and they can trust, respect, and have a measure of loyalty (loyalty to humanly-devised organizations should not be absolute because humans – myself included – make mistakes, do things wrong, mess up, but the response to those screw-ups is what matters and what builds or destroys trust, respect, and loyalty) and leave as soon as they are able.

Others will just quit with no other prospects in sight and either drop out of the organizational pool altogether or become entrepreneurs and start their own organizations. And others – this will be the majority – will just quit and stay, ensuring the imminent death of the dysfunctional organization.

The saddest part of this is that dysfunctional organizations don’t have to exist. They shouldn’t exist. But until quintessential leadership is being lived, practiced, and a part of every individual within that organization – quintessential leaders mentor, coach, and provide the opportunity for everyone they interact with, professionally and personally, because that’s who they are, to learn how to be quintessential leaders – we will continue to have and see the increase of organizational dysfunction. 

I have worked with one person who was a quintessential leader. The next post will be about that person and how grateful I am that our paths intersected early in my career, because I learned a lot from him not only about what quintessential leadership looks like in practice, but also about having the highest standards of integrity and practicing what a person says he or she believes.

The rest of the people in leadership positions throughout my career so far have been managers (and not stellar in even that arena) and non-quintessential leaders. Some were decent people personally, but had no leadership skills. Others were not decent people personally and also had no leadership skills. As I’ve sorted through the names, faces, and experiences, contrasting and comparing them all, one person leads the way in non-quintessential leadership and I will point out the areas in which this became glaringly obvious.

You may recognize these characteristics in someone you know and/or have worked with. And the more of these symptoms that are evident, the more toxic the work environment and the lower the morale will be. If you are experiencing burn-out and all that encompasses, then you probably have a non-quintessential leader like this.

He had a reputation when I got hired and I quickly heard that he was a “yes” man, a suck-up to those above him – and a tyrant to those who worked for him, and wishy-washy, going with whatever the prevailing winds moved the executive leadership of the organization, which left his teams in constant disarray.

Ironically, he did not want me to be hired because he thought I was too assertive and too committed to changing things drastically. In the conservative mindset of the organization, change was viewed with suspicion and resistance, and if anything did actually change (very few of the fundamental changes that needed to be made to become efficient, effective, and productive were made while I was there or have been made since), it was only after going through layers and layers of committees, organizational red tape, and many hoops held up by the executive staff to jump there. Change – or the attempt to change – was thoroughly exhausting and was mostly an exercise in futility.

He was ignored (and I didn’t find this out until later, but I realistically know that it was only a small contributor to the tenor of the relationship he and I had, because I know I shared the same kind of relationship with him in general that all his other team leaders did) and the CTO, who liked me personally and professionally and wanted someone who would shake things up in a positive and productive way, made the offer of employment to me, which I accepted.

As I began the job and was observing, evaluating, and listening to my team members and my peers, I also observed, evaluated, and listened to those who were responsible for overseeing all of us. The first thing I noticed about this man was that he had gotten where he was not because he was qualified for a leadership position, but because he was skilled in playing the elaborate political games this organization reeked with. He ingratiated himself with the people who wielded power in their respective business units and who had the unqualified support of the CEO.

They were like gods to him and he bowed at their altars regularly, slavishly acquiescing to their every whim and demand, whether it made sense or not, was reasonable or not, was right or not, to the exclusion of the majority of the organization’s other employees.

In disputes in which they leveled charges against his employees, they were always true and right and his employees were always dishonest and wrong. He never checked facts and never investigated a situation before drawing a conclusion. He simply took their word at face value and supported them. Not once in all the time I was there did I ever see him support or go to bat for one of his employees.  Ever.

For context, it is important to note that the people he cowtowed to and curried favor with were an ivory-tower group of people who were prima donnas and consistently made mountains out of mole hills, if there was an issue, and if there was not an issue, but they decided a person wasn’t paying them enough attention or being subservient enough, they fabricated issues.

And this group of people was who he always threw his support behind. He was more interested in himself – and his career, because he was a lifer at this organization – than he ever was with his teams. And that was reinforced time and again.

His climb up the ladder was the result of his own self-centeredness and kissing up to the right people. He did not have any leadership skills and was not even that knowledgeable about the technical areas he was responsible for. But he had teams that made him look good and he never had any problem taking all the credit himself and promoting himself when things went right.

Equally, when things went wrong – both because of poor leadership on his part and because he constantly agreed to things that either couldn’t be done the way he agreed to them or couldn’t be done in the unrealistic timeframes he agreed to or both – he never took any responsibility, instead placing all the blame and castigation – he was quite adept at that – on his teams.

He was neither respected nor liked by any of us. But we were stuck with him, so we did our best to do our jobs in spite of him. It was never easy. The turnover rate of his teams was (and still is) the highest in the organization and yet no one ever questioned it nor did anything to address it. Those who’ve endured had other personal reasons for staying, but it has not been without a lot of grief and heartache and ulcers along the way.

Toward the end of my tenure there – when he’d crossed a major line by calling me into a “meeting,” closing the door, and proceeding to yell and scream at me, getting worked up into a full rage which had him standing banging on his desk and threatening me (I was alarmed enough for my physical safety that I was trying to assess how close I was to the door and whether I could get out fast enough if he came after me), and the administrative assistants sitting outside the door were “frightened” (I heard this after the fact) for me and went to alert the CTO, who shrugged and did nothing – I spelled it out to him (I refused to meet with him alone anymore after this meeting, and after three months, he couldn’t remember what he did and after I told him, could not understand why I was so upset about it).

Prior to my last annual performance review there, I wrote a document and gave it to him and told him we would not do my performance review until he had read it. Performance reviews with him were a nightmare. They lasted a full day and consisted of him haranguing all of us over our deficits. None of us ever got more than a cumulative “meets expectations,” and, of course, raises were tied to that, so none of us ever got much, if any, of a raise. Early on, after talking with one of my peers who also became a good friend (we were complete opposites in temperament and approaches, but together we made a very successful team), I discovered that our director blasted me for not doing more of what he criticized my peer for doing and he blasted my peer for not doing more of what he criticized me for doing. That’s an impossible situation to try to navigate.

He kept delaying my last performance review and one day I got a call from the CTO saying he wanted to meet with me. In the meeting, he said that my director had tried to read my paper and just couldn’t get through it. The CTO said it was hard for him to get through it, not because it wasn’t well-written, but because it presented a lot of information in a “dense,” high-level way that, although it was completely understandable, required a higher level of intelligence and capability than this director had. I then aired my professional grievances against him and the CTO’s response was disappointing. He said that this director had a “limited range of responses” and it was my responsibility to just deal with it.

By then, I was seriously pursuing other career opportunities, so I just walked out and finally did the performance review, which netted me the usual “meets expectations.”

When I submitted my “burn-no-bridges” resignation letter to this director, he was genuinely surprised. He was so enmeshed in the organizational mindset of “you stay here until you die or are fired (which rarely happened)” that he could not wrap his brain around the fact that someone would actually leave by choice. He did not ask me why I was leaving, nor did he express any regret (and although 200 or so people showed up at my going-away party, he did not). My last action of significance, though, was making sure that the person I had groomed to replace me and who I knew would stand toe-to-toe with him just like I did in support of my team members (she was more charming and proficient verbally than I was and, amazingly, he liked her better than most) got my position. I left, knowing that although there was no leadership at the top, that my team members had a leader who was poised to become a quintessential leader.

One of the true voids in every strata of life now, from personal to corporate to national to global, is that of authenticity from the inside out. We live in a society that has been jaded and marred by the realizations and revelations that the people they’ve admired, looked up to, followed, and thought they knew were frauds.

That has destroyed trust and undermined respect for any kind of authority – not abusive, misused and self-seeking tyranny, which is often the only manifestation we currently see in almost every governing structure, from personal to corporate to national to global – necessary to ensure order and progress. And that has led to the deepening chaos and retrograde that we see unfolding today.

I read an excerpt from “Sweetness,” Jeff Pearlman’s new book about Walter Payton, the Chicago Bears’ legendary running back from the mid-1970’s to the late 1980’s, in Sports Illustrated yesterday. And although the excerpt is being criticized for its portrayal of an inner man who was quite different from the outer man, it underscored this point about how important that our inside (who we are) matches our outside (what we do and say), because if those are not in sync, eventually the cracks will appear and we will be unmasked as frauds, pretenders, and wannebes. And no matter how much good we may have effected as a result of our superficial external coating, it will all be scrutinized, dismantled, dismissed, and abandoned, with nothing but the ugly truth of who we really were left as our legacies. 

Authenticity starts early in life. Its foundation is a moral integrity that is absolute – right or wrong, no matter what – instead of relative – right or wrong depends on the situation – and that we do not allow to be compromised nor compromise with. This is the foundation our parents have an important part in laying and we have an important part in building. We choose early on whether to build it or try to get around it by compromising it.

I don’t claim to know all the factors that go into which way we choose. I know that personality and temperament play a part. I know that experience plays a part. I know that what’s most important to us plays a part. But early on, we choose to try to stand on our principles – and suffer the consequences each time we don’t, and the negativity of that makes it less and less appealing – or compromise them.

Compromise is where the inner and outer person begin to part ways and become two separate entities instead of a single whole. The road to living a compromised life starts with seemingly little – although, in fact, they are never little – things. Cheating at a game or on a test. Lying to parents or teachers or ourselves. Stealing something from someone else.

Although getting caught or not getting caught by someone else can certainly encourage us or deter us from pursuing the road to a compromised life – it seemed to me as a kid that I seldom got away with anything without getting caught, and for that I’m now thankful – it seems to me that the strongest determinant is one of conscience. Conscience is what tells us that even if we didn’t get caught it was in conflict with our moral integrity and that dissonance was intolerable so we told on ourselves, made the situation right, and determined not to do that again, and if we did, we repeated the steps of getting rid of the internal conflict by admission, correction, and determination.

If our inner person (conscience) is not authentic, then these wrong acts, because no one else caught them, will not bother us and demand that we admit them and correct them. Instead, exactly because no one else caught them and there were seemingly no consequences – except to our character, which often goes undetected for many years because we become extremely adept at hiding the defects  – they embolden us to make these compromises habitual until they become who we are on the inside. We become liars.

And because we live in a society that mirrors this same behavior, giving lip service to a watered-down and surface version of law and order, but being utterly corrupt and okay with that corruption underneath, we become liars among liars, until there is virtually no truth, no authenticity, no honesty in any of our systems and the people who lead those systems.

I could write a book alone on the number of people I’ve worked with who were in leadership positions who lacked authenticity. I can hold up one finger on one hand for one man who was authentic inside and outside. He stands all by himself as someone I can say I truly respected and truly trusted and who was the best leader I ever worked with.

So to be a quintessential leader, you must be authentic. Who you are must match what you say and do. Your life, if opened up and dissected for all the world, must match the words you’ve spoken and the actions you have both taken and modeled, in every aspect of life. Anything less means moral compromise and moral compromise means failure.