What happens when leaders demonstrate bad behavior?

Image for post
Image for post
Al Franken learned that treating women poorly is not a joke.

2017 was a bad year for several leaders. 2018 may have been even worse.

I wrote this blog a year ago. It is still as relevant today as it was then. I sure hope 2019 is better.

We need leaders to step up to the plate and deliver. Not break the rules until they get caught.

Image for post
Image for post
Google’s CEO had to deal with this mess caused by a former leader.

Leaders face high expectations and always will

Leaders are expected to deliver results without breaking the rules. We demand that senior leaders behave themselves.

It is a reasonable demand. They are well compensated.

Senior leaders are charged with a lot of responsibility. If they act inappropriately it could affect many, perhaps even the entire organization.

“To whom much is given, from him much is expected”.

Bad behavior is nothing new

We witnessed numerous leaders getting into trouble in 2017 for bad behavior.

It almost seems like an epidemic, especially for men. When you turn on the television there is another male leader explaining what happened and apologizing for it.

I will argue that leaders doing things that should not be done is nothing new.

People have been misbehaving since the dawn of time. We are all humans and leaders are no different. They face the same temptations as everyone else.

The main difference is that the consequences for bad behavior are more severe for leaders. They should be.

Image for post
Image for post
A Congressman resigned after bad behavior was revealed.

Increased transparency is here

Let’s start with the good news. Increased transparency is here, and it is here to stay. It is much easier these days to figure out if a leader is a bad apple.

We live in a world full of digital dust that can be traced. What leaders say and do can be captured on cameras, microphones, and emails.

The idea of making remarks “off the record” is dated. Nowadays it is easy to record events.

If you are a leader, remember that the microphone is always on when talking. Your company is most likely recording every keystroke you make.

More than one leader fell from grace this year because they naively believed that no one was going to know what they were doing. They were wrong.

Image for post
Image for post
Another member of Congress resigned when his misdeeds were discovered.

Do not lie, cheat, or steal

As a leader, you may be asking yourself — what are the rules?

Not an easy question. The rules, ethics, and norms vary across industries.

The company I work for performs a lot of contract work for the US Federal Government which is a highly regulated industry. The rulebook we play by is long and complicated. As you would expect we have a strict ethical code.

For example, I am not allowed to offer a gift of any kind to the clients I support. Exchanging gifts with clients over the holiday season may not be a big deal in your company.

If you work in the commercial sector, the rules will be different. If you work internationally you may be dealing with radically different cultural norms.

I recommend keeping it simple. Do not lie, cheat, or steal.

If you do, as a leader, you will pay the price at some point in time like the examples I will describe below.

Take the higher road — it will be worth it in the long run.

“Take the higher road and secure a stronger, more lasting victory” Daniel Stewart

Do not lie to your customers

Over the past decade, several companies have been caught lying to their customers. In 2017 Apple revealed they have been deliberately slowing down older iPhones without telling their customers.

Apple is considered by many people to be the leading technology company in the world. But, they have been hiding the truth.

Their customers responded strongly when they learned the news. In response, Apple released a long (really long) explanation on their website.

Now Apple is in the process of rebuilding trust with their customers. It is not good timing for them — sales of the latest iPhone are lower than expected.

Image for post
Image for post
Apple was forced to apologize for slowing down older iPhones. Photo by Getty.

Cheating may come at great cost

In 2015 it was revealed that Volkswagen cheated on the emissions tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for VW diesel vehicles.

Their CEO testified to Congress that they cheated on purpose to increase vehicle sales in the US.

The fact that a German company cheated on a test designed to protect the environment was shocking. If you have ever visited Germany then you know how seriously they take protecting the environment.

The cost to Volkswagen has been enormous — over $20 billion. If you cheat it is highly likely that you will get caught.

It may come at a great cost to you and your organization. Don’t do it.

Image for post
Image for post
Volkswagen CEO testifies before Congress on the emissions cheating scandal.

Cheating may cost you everything

Lance Armstrong was a great champion. He won seven Tour de France titles — more than anyone.

He was a hero to many, especially those fighting cancer. Lance survived cancer. He went on to raise millions of dollars for cancer research. He gave great speeches and made millions of dollars in the process.

But, there was a problem. Signs of trouble surfaced in the early 2000s — questions raised by former teammates and colleagues.

Lance attacked all of them, calling them liars, hitting them will huge lawsuits.

Lance defended himself for years, and I believed him. Many did.

Image for post
Image for post
Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles.

The truth finally came out

Lance was a cheater. After much pressure, he finally confessed the truth to Oprah Winfrey. He cheated to win and had been lying for years.

What did cheating cost Lance Armstrong — practically everything.

He was stripped of all his Tour de France titles. Sponsors dropped Lance, costing him millions.

Worst of all — Lance Armstrong is not allowed to race anymore. The one thing he truly loved is the one thing he is not allowed to do anymore.

Next time you think about cheating to win, remember Lance Armstrong.

Image for post
Image for post
Lance Armstrong confesses to Oprah that he cheated to win

Stealing is never acceptable

We all know that you should not steal anything from anyone. Yet — it still happens.

I think it is rare that you will have to deal with an actual thief stealing property in your company. What is more likely to happen, and perhaps more sinister, is for someone to steal intellectual property (IP).

As this article explains — some employees will steal IP when leaving your company. Stealing IP comes in multiple forms. Some people will print out documents.

Others will swipe files using a flash drive. It is amazing how many documents one can save on a cheap flash drive. Most companies monitor employee digital activities. It is pretty easy to tell if someone is up to no good.

I work for one of the best consulting companies in the world. I am sad to say that I know of several examples when our employees were caught stealing IP on their way out the door.

The reality is that it can happen to any company. Don’t let it happen to yours.

Image for post
Image for post
It is not difficult to steal all the flies off a laptop with a flash drive.

Holding ourselves accountable

It is important as a leader that you hold yourself accountable, and also those who work for you. Based on the examples I described above I highly recommend you avoid lying, cheating, or stealing at all costs.

Do not tolerate these behaviors in your organization either.

The price to be paid is steep.

Take the high road instead. It is worth it in the end.

ATW! is designed to make you a better leader

I hope you join me on this journey to raise up the next generation of leaders. The world is in desperate need of more great leaders. Women and men who lead with confidence, clarity, and creativity.

It’s time to become the leader that your world needs. Let’s go All The Way!

All The Way Leadership!

Related

All The Way Leadership! will help you become a strong leader by teaching you the three core competencies of leadership: confidence, clarity, and creativity. Visit https://www.allthewayleadership.com/ to find out more

Originally published at www.allthewayleadership.com on January 11, 2019.

Leader and learner. Father of two young men. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store