Posts Tagged ‘disrespect’

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad, Dr. Ned Moses Ross. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said. (more…)

Amazon: What Unquintessential Leadership Looks LikeIn an August 16, 2015 articleThe New York Times took an in-depth look at how Amazon, initiated and encouraged by CEO Jeff Bezos, operates internally. Even in a time when unquintessential leadership is the norm in almost every organization, the environment and culture at Amazon stands out as being at the most extreme end of unquintessential leadership.

Let’s look at what unquintessential leadership looks like from Amazon’s playbook. I hope everyone reads the article because the details are that important, but I’m going to look at the big-picture areas of unquintessential leadership here.

There is no teamwork at Amazon. Instead, each person is out for themselves and is encouraged to do whatever it takes to get themselves noticed, promoted, and distinguished from everyone else.

There are no boundaries and there is no room for respect. The environment and culture at Amazon says, instead, that everyone else working there is the enemy and must be eliminated with extreme prejudice.

Extreme prejudice is a military euphemism for assassination.  Amazon not only encourages extreme prejudice, but it promotes it by having many mechanisms in place to accomplish it.

The Amazon culture and environment is one of competition, backbiting, sabotage, bullying, and spying. Everybody is looking at everyone else and looking for something, anything to denigrate, criticize, or destroy everybody else. If nothing exists in actuality, the culture encourages manufacturing it (lying) to get ahead.

A secret feedback system is in place where everyone can continuously give feedback on everyone else based on every interaction they have with each other. Amazon spins this as a state-of-the-art data-driven performance system, but it is really a tool that seeks to eliminate with extreme prejudice. 

Beside the malevolent intent behind this feedback system, which is in itself unquintessential leadership, the data – which now rules everything in our society – is corrupt because it depends on humans. Who have bad days. Who have positive and negative emotions. Who sometimes have really bad interactions with or negative reactions to even people they love and cherish and would give their lives for, but who are far, far more prone to those with and toward people they don’t know, don’t like, or they see as their enemies.

Unquintessential leadership at Amazon can also be seen in its oppressive micromanagement system. It appears that the people in mid-level leadership positions spend all their time with microtracking the corrupted data about their employees and using short threat-filled and bullying mostly faceless interactions based on the corrupt data instead of actually working with their employees and helping them to contribute to the company.

The Unquintessential Leadership of Jeff Bezos and AmazonEverything’s a test at Amazon. Emails sent in the middle of the night with an expectation of immediate response. Working long and grueling hours. Sacrificing everything – health, family, and life – to Amazon. Amazon is the god that must be exclusively worshiped by its employees.

If an employee can’t make and keep that commitment, then that employee is eliminated. And much like the people who disappear in George Orwell’s 1984, every trace and record of the eliminated is expunged. They simply never existed.

Amazon’s culture is designed according to the unquintessential leadership dream: completely break everybody. Those who survive can be rebuilt into the automaton Amazon mold of unquintessential leadership. Those who don’t survive were weak, useless, unworthy, and never mattered anyway. They are not missed because they never existed.

This quote from the article highlights this aspect of the unquintessential leadership at Amazon: “Bo Olson…said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. ‘You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,’ he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.'”

These are the overarching areas of what unquintessential leadership looks like at Amazon. 

But I challenge each of us not to sit here smugly patting ourselves on the back because we’re not like THAT.

The reality is that a lot of the elements of unquintessential leadership at Amazon – for which the company is not only unapologetic for, but also wears like a badge of honor – exist in most organizations today. 

It may be more hidden, more subtle, or sugarcoated as being helpful or productive, but it is just as dangerous, just as damaging, and just as destructive.

As quintessential leaders, we can never allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking any manifestation of unquintessential leadership is permissible and okay. It is never permissible and it is never okay.

Here’s where the mirror test comes in for you and for me.

What do you and I think about the unquintessential leadership at Amazon? 

What do you and I think about the unquintessential leadership in our own organizations?

Are you and I okay with it or are you and I standing up to it and fighting against  it, even if it costs you and me everything to do so?

Our answers to these questions determine whether we are on the main road of unquintessential leadership or we are on the less-traveled-by road of quintessential leadership.

How are we doing?

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate it as much. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it – and my dad – more and more with each passing day.

My dad’s been gone almost 17 years, but his example and the lessons he taught me about what quintessential leadership is and what it looks like in practice have taken root over the years, with those roots getting more deeply entrenched and stronger with time and practice, and have now begun to blossom and bear fruit in my own life.

I wish my dad were here to see that, although it was hard to tell then, I watched, I listened, I absorbed, and I took everything to heart. His experience, his counsel, and his wisdom have permeated my mind, my conscience, and my life as I’ve tried them, tested them, proved them, and found them to be true.

The older me would tell my dad that he was right (the younger me had a hard time admitting that anyone else was ever right) and would never stop expressing my gratitude and my love. That, for my dad, will have to wait for another day, one that I am looking forward to very much.

In the meantime, though, I have the opportunity to pass the lessons on in developing other quintessential leaders. I don’t claim to have mastered them nor to execute them perfectly. But that is a front-of-my-mind-always goal and nothing I think, say, or do isn’t within the context of that goal. That, my friends, is the first step to becoming a quintessential leader.

One of the ongoing lessons my dad taught me was to show respect to everybody. In my words. In my actions. In every area of my life. I can still hear him saying “Be nice to everyone you meet on the way up, because you’ll meet the same people on your way back down.”

Respect can be a complicated thing for us as people and us as quintessential leaders. It shouldn’t be, as I hope to show, since respect is an outward manifestation of our understanding of the brotherhood of humanity and of the integrity of our character, but it can be until we understand the essence of what respect is.

Respect is not tied to our likes or dislikes, our feelings and emotions, nor to what we agree or disagree about.

Instead, it is an acknowledgement that each of us has the exact same value in terms of our humanness – at our most basic structure, each of us is just a little dirt and a little water mixed together, and when death, the great equalizer, comes that is what we all return to, minus the water – and in terms of our purpose and our potential.

Most of the people in leadership positions today lack respect for anyone else. They may show favoritism to their lackeys as long as they support and help them and push their agendas – which are power, greed, and control – but favoritism is fickle and disappears when lackeys are inconvenient or no longer useful.

Respect is not fickle, nor is it tied to what someone else can do for us. That is simply beyond the grasp of most people in leadership positions today. 

respect quintessential leaderDisrespect is in vogue. It is wrapped up in the forms of tearing others down, name-calling, and put downs. It is characterized by people exposing the “weaknesses” of others, ripping those weaknesses – and those people – to shreds, and then the disrespecters exalting themselves to show how superior and better they are than the lowlifes they just called out.

As shameful and as disgusting as this conduct is, those who do it have no shame and no remorse. In fact, with social media, they’ve found a bigger and more public venue in which to flagrantly disrespect other people. As a result, disrespect has become the norm, while respect is becoming harder and harder to find.

A recent example of this pervasive disrespect – and this is a pattern of behavior with this individual – from someone in a leadership position, but who is not a quintessential leader, brought this back to the forefront of my thinking.

Here are a few excerpts from an email this person in a leadership position wrote to somebody he disagrees with:

“…that you remain a congenital liar incapable of telling the truth.”

“You seem to fail to grasp that you were used as a useful idiot…”

“…you were too stupid to realize that you were being used.”

“I have no time for lying fools whose mission in life is to slander and spread division…”

“Take your vomit somewhere else and don’t waste my time.”

I disagree, for different reasons, with almost all that the recipient of this email says as well. However, I would never communicate with this person – or anyone else on the planet – in a disrespectful manner. The person in a leadership position, though, had absolutely no qualms about it. 

As quintessential leaders, each of is responsible for showing respect to everyone and to modeling that to the quintessential leaders we are developing. Since that’s our responsibility, what does it look like in practice?

Not everybody is going to like everybody else. That’s a fact of life.

My dad, I think, came the closest of anybody I know to liking almost every person he ever met. I can think of two people I know for a fact that he didn’t like, and there may be two others, but he never said one way or the other.

I, on the other hand, have a longer list of people that I don’t care for and would rather not have to be within 300 miles of on any given day (and, frankly, the same is probably true for them with me). It’s not that they are awful people or bad people, but our personalities and temperaments are so different that we just don’t sync up on any kind of tangible level.

Given the choice to spend any kind of extended time with them or face a firing squad, I’d most likely choose the firing squad. Both are excruciating, but one is fast and one-and-done. Social pain is difficult for me, so quick elimination – my own – is generally my preference.

However, whether we are more like my dad and there’s almost nobody we don’t like or we’re more like me and have a pricklier personality and temperament, we still are responsible for being respectful to everybody.

We all have emotions and feelings and sometimes we get hurt, we get angry, and we get sad at what other people do to us and say to us. Disrespecting them – revenge and getting even – is our default response tendency as humans.

But quintessential leaders never forget their responsibility to be respectful and to be reminded that we have also hurt, angered, and saddened other people in our travels through life, and we’ve been shown respect, along with mercy and restraint, at times along the way when we didn’t deserve it. We pay that forward. It’s that simple.

As human beings, it’s often easier to find things we disagree on than things we agree on. That, too, is part of life. Sometimes those disagreements are deep and intense. Sometimes they are so fundamental, moral-wise, character-wise, and principle-wise, that they force a relationship between or among people to break – at least for the rest of this temporary existence of physical life.

However, no matter how strong the disagreement, even to the point of breaking relationships for the remainder of our physical lives, we may have with other people, we are still responsible for showing them respect.

I suspect that when this life is done and the next iteration occurs that we’ll all find that all the things we thought we knew were in fact next to nothing (and that little splinter where there was a minute bit of understanding and insight was more wrong than right) and all that we argued over, disagreed over, and fought over was basically a waste of time because none of us got it right.

If that’s the case, then our responsibility for being respectful to everybody else – even if they disrespect us – should weigh even heavier in who and what we as quintessential leaders are.

So how do quintessential leaders show respect? What does it look like?

  • Never personally attack anyone else. You can disagree and be respectful. You can dislike and be respectful. You can experience negative emotions and feelings and be respectful. You can break a relationship, because it’s the healthiest thing to do, and be respectful.
  • Never tear anyone else down. You are not anyone’s judge and jury. You have never value purpose potential equals respectwalked in their shoes, so whatever you think you know about them is not even close to their whole story. Show mercy.
  • Never badmouth anyone to anyone else. This an emotional response to anger, frustration, and impatience with other people. It says a whole lot more about you as a person than it does about the person you’re badmouthing.
  • Silence can be a form of respect, especially when it comes to anyone that we are hard-pressed to find or see anything positive about. Just because we don’t see it or haven’t found it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Silence ensures that we recognize that everyone has value, even if we don’t know personally what it is. It is often the better part of wisdom.

What would you add to this list of what respect looks like?

More importantly, how are we doing?