Posts Tagged ‘jealousy’

The Unquintessential Leadership Trait of Character AssassinationWe humans have a lot of things, good and bad, in common despite all the things that make us different and unique individually from each other. Today we’re going to discuss one of the prevailing bad things we have in common, which is a hallmark trait of unquintessential leadership.

That unquintessential leadership trait is character assassination. But this unquintessential leadership trait is not isolated just to those who routinely assassinate the character of other people. It extends to those people who listen to the character assassination, who believe the character assassination without verification or proof, who perpetuate the character assassination, and who applaud the person who is assassinating another person’s character.

In other words, character assassination can be both active and passive. The active forms are initiating and perpetuating the assassination of someone else’s character. The passive forms are listening to, believing without verifying or proving, and applauding the assassination of someone else’s character.

Although any assassination of another person’s character is unquintessential leadership in action, the most hurtful types of character assassination are those that are perpetrated by, listened to, believed by, perpetuated by, and applauded by people who are supposedly friends of the people whose character is being assassinated.

Character Assassination is an Unquintessential Leadership TraitWith friends like these, who needs enemies?

We humans innately have a tendency to talk too much. In that eagerness to speak, we also tend to talk without thinking and say things in the heat of emotional upheaval. In these cases, we usually don’t mean the things we say and, if we’re quintessential leaders, as soon as we realize we’ve hurt or offended someone, we apologize and make amends.

Character assassination, on the other hand, is a calculated and deliberate campaign of words composed of outright lies, half-truths, manipulation, insinuation, and instigation that has the sole intent of destroying not only the reputation and integrity of another person, but the person themselves. Anyone who participates in this actively or passively is showing themselves to be unquintessential leaders.

With the advent of social media, character assassination has become prolific, public, egregious, and normal.

It’s as though we humans check our brains, turn off all the filters of common decency, forget the Golden Rule entirely, and embrace the darkest parts of our human nature at the door of social media.

Although the methodologies differ – and are sometimes so subtle, they are difficult to recognize  – the intent and the result is the same.

And, more often than not, the people whose character is being assassinated don’t even know that it’s happened or is happening. Others just suddenly disappear out of their lives or consciously avoid them altogether and the people who’ve been the victims of character assassination have no idea why. 

So what does the perpetration of character assassination look like in practice? 

  1. Keeping the wording vague, but malicious, and keeping the victim anonymous, the perpetrator makes sure everybody knows how “awful” the maligned person is with cutting words and harsh condemnations that indicate that the perpetrator can perfectly read thoughts, attitudes, intents, motives, actions, and hearts (if we really believe that we can do this with other people, then we are unquintessential leaders, because we can’t).
  2. Baiting people by providing tantalizing and derogatory information about someone else.
  3. Twisting words to make it look like someone said or intended something they did not.
  4. Taking innocent actions – with no knowledge of what is actually going on – and making them seem sinister, salacious, or wrong.
  5. Gossiping and spreading rumors about someone.
  6. Tearing someone down to others.

The roots of why unquintessential leaders initiate and participate in character assassation are two-fold and speak to the character of the initiators and participators. 

The first root is jealousy. Generally, people who are victims of character assassination are persistent, genuine, proactive and original, and doing everything in their power to make positive movement forward. Usually, they’re doing it steadily and quietly, but the impact is readily apparent. 

Narcissism is a Root of Character AssassinationUnquintessential leaders are generally imitators and copiers. They make a lot of noise and constantly scream “Hey, look at me!” but the noise is unoriginal, often hackneyed, and always copied from someone else. Therefore, they are jealous of people who don’t imitate and don’t copy other people, but actually do the hard work of research, innovation, and original creation.

For unquintessential leaders, the only way to quiet their jealousy and to hope to minimize or eliminate the impact of a person’s honesty, authenticity, originality and forward motion is to assassinate that person’s character.

The second root of character assassination is a darker  aspect of human nature that unquintessential leaders give in to routinely and that is finding a perverse joy and fulfillment in either watching somebody destroyed or destroying that person themselves. 

There seems to be an ugly pride and smugness among unquintessential leaders when they’ve assassinated someone’s character. Ironically, unquintessential leaders use these opportunities to talk about how awesome, how great, and how wonderful they are, sometimes in comparison to the person whose character they have assassinated, but, more often than not, because for unquintessential leaders it’s all about me, they simply sing their own praises and invite everybody else to join in their song.

And now, my friends, it’s that time when we all honestly look into our own mirrors and examine ourselves to see if we have the unquintessential leadership trait of character assassination in our lives.

Do we routinely assassinate the character of other people:

  1. Via social media or other means of communication, by stating or insinuating that those people are deficient and defective in character, attitude, motive, action, mindset, etc.? (It’s important to remember that those people aren’t there to defend themselves – and likely don’t even know what’s being said about them – nor are they able set the record straight so what we’re saying is one-sided and never the whole story.)
  2. By spreading rumors and gossip about them?
  3. By listening to a perpetrator’s character assassination of them?
  4. By believing without verification or proof a perpetrator’s character assassination of them?
  5. By perpetuating a perpetrator’s character assassination of them?
  6. By applauding a perpetrator’s character assassination of them?

I can only answer these questions for myself by honestly looking in the mirror of my own life. You can only answer them for yourself by doing the same.

How are we doing?




The majority of articles and blogs about leadership talk about a single aspect – as if it exists and operates in a vacuum – of leadership. It is the public face of leadership: businesses, religious organizations, political organizations, social organizations, schools, and non-profit organizations.

Except for this blog and these books, I have not found any other resource on leadership that discusses it in terms of the whole of spectrum of our lives: it’s who we are, what we are, how we are everywhere in life.

That’s what makes this blog and these books unique. Most people don’t think a blog or books about leadership apply to them: to their lives, to who they are, what they are, and how they are.

They are wrong.

Because they’ve bought into the mainstream idea of what leadership is in a public sense, and since they’re not in one of those positions, then any discussion of leadership doesn’t apply to them.

(And most of the mainstream ideas of leadership are actually “management” instead of “leadership,” which fails time and time again because there are very few people strong enough and courageous enough to get outside of the MBA-fueled tiny, uninnovative, rigid, and constrictive box that confines them to failure).

The reality is that quintessential leadership applies to everyone who lives and breathes. No matter where we are in life or what we are doing, we all lead at least one team, if not several.

Everything we do, we say, and we are is setting an example for the others in our lives, and that, my friends, is leadership. How we do that determines whether we are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

It is that simple. And that hard.

A close friend and fellow blogger, remarking on “The Quintessential Leader Perspective: Expressing and Showing Genuine and Authentic Appreciation,” said “A tall order! It’s difficult to be thankful towards those who are difficult, yet it is the only right answer.”

Becoming a quintessential leader is the road not taken. It is the hard way, the difficult way, the way that demands that we look at leadership in terms of every and all aspects of our lives, not just a single part.

It requires rigorous self-examination without excuses, justifications, or blaming others. It requires constant, continuous, and momentous change from the inside out.

It requires a complete metamorphosis and transformation at the very foundational core of who and what we are, our intents, our attitudes, our motives, how we think, what we think, how we speak, what we speak, how we act, what we choose to do or not do, and how we set that example for others.

It requires fearless commitment and unwavering fortitude.

There is no room for the pretenders, the wannabes, the half-hearted, the sometimes-maybe, for the lackadaisical, and for the here-but-not-there.

We are either all in or all out.

One of the tests – of veracity, of genuineness, of authenticity – for whether we are quintessential leaders or not is how we consistently handle the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.

All of life.

From our most private internal lives to our most public external lives.

It is important to remember that this is the ideal, the goal that quintessential leaders strive for and to. None of us will execute this perfectly all the time, but there must be aggregate and continual evidence in our lives that this is who and what we are committed to – no matter how many failures, setbacks, and falls along the way we make and encounter -becoming.

Quintessential leadership is hardest to see when life is good. Humanity, in general, tends to be at its best when everything’s going well and life presents no challenges, no upsets, no hairpin turns in the road. We all, at least on the surface, can seem to be charitable, thoughtful, caring, concerned, kind, generous, gentle, merciful, and magnanimous.

It is in the good times, though, that the inner character of quintessential leaders separates them from everyone else.

One component of that character is humility.

Quintessential leaders never elevate themselves above others, nor do they constantly talk about how much they’ve accomplished, achieved, acquired (and, by extension, how much wealth they have by enumerating the amount of money those acquisitions cost), and how awesome and great they are.

Instead, quintessential leaders continue to live life modestly and quietly. They realize that the good times are part of the cycle of life and will not last.

Quintessential leaders also understand that the good times are a gift they did not earn, do not deserve, and are not entitled to, so in an attitude of service and thankfulness for them, quintessential leaders use the blessings of good times to help and assist others, often anonymously, and always silently and without any fanfare.

Another three-pronged component of the quintessential leader’s character that you’ll see in the good times in life is understanding and sensitivity combined with empathy.

Quintessential leaders are always cognizant that although they may be experiencing good times in their lives at that moment, many of the people with whom their lives intersect – and for whom they are examples and, therefore, leaders – may not be.

Quintessential leaders are excellent and accurate observers of life by nature. Because they listen more than they speak and watch more than they engage, they miss virtually nothing about what people say (or don’t say), do (or don’t do), and are (or are not), although they seldom, if ever, say anything about it.

They learn to understand and to relate to others in a tangible and meaningful way that includes the rare quality of being able to empathize by putting themselves into the situations that others are experiencing.

As a result, quintessential leaders are acutely sensitive to the circumstances of other people and how their behavior, words, and actions could affect them, not because they are inherently wrong, but because of what other people may be experiencing (for example, if someone is going through a relationship loss, quintessential leaders would not be talking on and on in bubbly, bouyant, and bouncy conversations with this person about all the great things in their wonderful and fantastic relationships).

Anything other than this kind of understanding, empathy, and sensitivity – deep awareness of others and genuinely and authentically relating to them – would be out of character for quintessential leaders during the good times of life.


Because quintessential leaders always have the big picture in the front of their minds. Good times come and go. Anything that’s happened to someone else could or may happen to us. How would we want to be treated when we are walking in those shoes?

It is always an others-perspective, not a me-perspective, that defines who, what, and how quintessential leaders are. In the good times in life. And in the bad and ugly times.

It is in the bad times and the ugly times in life that quintessential leaders become more apparent, because the bad times and the ugly times in life are the times that try our souls, our hearts, our minds and our character to their outermost limits.

The bad times and the ugly times present ample opportunities to be unquintessential leaders, to set and be bad examples for the people with whom our lives intersect.

The bad times and the ugly times in life can give rise to unfair criticisms, harsh and inaccurate evaluations and condemnations, rejections, resentments, mockery, stinging and hurtful putdowns (usually guised as “jokes” or followed by smiley faces), spitefulness, jealousies, pettiness, and defensiveness – all of which are not intrinsic character traits of quintessential leaders.

The reality is that we all have to deal with these kinds of attitudes, motives, words, and actions during the bad times and the ugly times in life, whether we are quintessential leaders or not.

They are hard-wired into our human nature and it is in the worst of times that we either fight and subdue them or we embrace and use them.

Unquintessential leaders embrace and use them.

Quintessential leaders fight and subdue them.

In other words, quintessential leaders exercise self-control (and, at times, this is the most exhausting work in the world, because it literally takes every ounce of energy and effort we have) and choose what is right instead of what seems easy, justified, and, at least temporarily, very self-satisfying.

These are very often epic behind-the-scenes battles that end in victories or capitulations, character developments or character destructions, good or bad choices, and wise or unwise decisions.

The outcome of what goes on in the private and inner workings of our hearts, souls, and minds is only apparent in what we do (or don’t do) and say (or don’t say) out in the open.

And it’s in the outward manifestation, in bad times and ugly times, that we can truly distinguish between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders.

Again, in bad times and ugly times in life, we all experience failure in being quintessential leaders.

There is not a human being who has ever lived, who lives, or who will live – except for the Son of God – who has, does, or will get it right 100% of the time. It’s impossible in our current configuration.

However, the hallmark difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is that quintessential leaders are actively living – consciously and deliberately thinking, practicing, being in every part of their lives all the time – with the goal always directly in front of them.

It is a way of life – an integrated part of who, what, and how they consciencely (that’s not a misspelling – because the state of our consciences is directly related to quintessential leadership) and consciously are and are becoming.

In other words, quintessential leaders are well aware when they fail. Nobody else needs to point their failures out to them. The consciences of quintessential leaders are so finely-tuned and sensitive to what they should and want to be – the ideal – that their consciences are immediately stricken when they fall short in any way.

Quintessential leaders are devastated when they fail because they know that not only have they missed the mark of quintessential leadership, but they have failed the people whose lives intersect with theirs by setting a wrong and bad example.

Quintessential leaders, again, stand out in this area from unquintessential leaders.

Quintessential leaders first admit they failed, to themselves and to their teams. They then apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Quintessential leaders will next immediately undertake an exhaustive post-mortem on what happened and why it happened. In the process, quintessential leaders identify tangible and definitive steps to correct the failure, from the inside out, and actively start taking those steps.

Quintessential leaders often do one more thing: they use their failures and the process of identifying the causes and the corrective actions as teachable moments for their teams.

Unquintessential leaders can’t do this because they don’t even recognize a failure (and if someone pointed it out to them, they’d deny it and get defensive and start attacking the poor, unfortunate soul who dared to say anything), so their bad examples are all their teams get.

And their teams perpetuate those bad examples to their teams, and so it goes until we find ourselves in the world in its present tense surrounded by an overwhelming majority of unquintessential leaders.

But we are not them. Or are we?





theodore roosevelt criticism leadership“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

I saw the excerpt quoted above early yesterday morning. It resonated with me strongly because it reflects who and what I am striving to become as a person, as a writer, and as a quintessential leader. Those, ultimately, are not three different roles or personas, but instead an integrated whole person who is and does the same right things all the time in every part of my life.

I wanted to see the context in which these words were spoken, so I found and read the entire 1910 speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt entitled “Citizenship in a Republic.” It’s well worth a close reading and an even-closer thoughtful reflection upon.

There’s an old adage that “everyone’s a critic.” To some extent that’s true. (more…)