The Idea: Leaders who surround themselves with groupies are far from healthy and are often living in a house of cards. We all need people in our lives that are not afraid to push back and even critique us, if we hope to thrive in a constantly changing world. Almost 66% of companies on the Fortune 100 list in 1990 were not on the list twenty years later. Were they in love with flattery?
In his book “Why Leaders Lose Their Way”, Bill George shares: “When leaders focus on external gratification instead of inner satisfaction, they lose their grounding. Often they reject honest critic. Instead, they surround themselves with sycophants (flatters) who tell them what they want to hear. Over time, they are unable to engage in honest dialogue & others learn not to confront them with reality.”
So what gets in the way of eliminating a culture of corporate flattery and hero worship? It starts with getting to the root of the disease. There are three debilitating behaviors that hinder honest discussion and a team’s performance.
Behavior #1: Monopolizing Conversation. These leaders have the need to show others that they are the smartest person in the room. They always direct the conversation back to their own personal agenda because of their own insecurity. They fail to harvest the knowledge within their core group; they simply talk too much. The smartest person in the room is the room. All of us need the unique knowledge and perspectives of others outside of our protected inner-circles.
Behavior #2: Monopolizing Information. Leadership refuses to share information (or power) in order to maintain an advantage over others. Leaders can talk about trust, but if they don’t share power, the spotlight will eventually blind them. Leadership is about sharing power while encouraging others to step into the light, plain & simple.
Behavior #3: Hiding From Truths. When leaders make excuses for their poor behavior by blaming others and not accepting candid feedback, they are ignorant of what’s actually happening. They fail to be coachable and push away dissenting voices. Ironically, they often demand trust while not exhibiting trustworthiness.
Encouraging dissenting opinions creates a culture of honesty and honor. Modeling that you love constructive feedback is the true antidote to a suffocating environment that is desperate for truth.