Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Three Bad Habits of Fake Leaders

ARCHIVES

There was an interesting movie that came out last year called “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. In it, Damon plays a rising young congressman named David Norris. He’s headed for a big victory in a campaign for the U.S. Senate until a picture comes out of him mooning his fraternity brothers at a college reunion. He loses big and starts giving his supporters the big, inspirational, we’ll-be-back concession speech. He says things like, “Where I grew up, it wasn’t that you got knocked down, it was about what you did when you got back up.”

The crowd initially cheers loudly, but then settles down when Norris tells them what he just said was total BS. They didn’t say that in his neighborhood. His pollsters told him it would play well. Same thing with the striped tie he was wearing and even the amount of scuffing he had on his dress shoes. He pulled back the curtain on how the game was played. It was about learning how to fake being real.

As we enter the height of the political season in the U.S., that speech comes to mind. All of the candidate debates and speeches seem to offer a symposium in how to fake being real. Here are three common habits I’ve noticed so far:

  • Put your game face mask on. When you enter the debate arena or step up to make that big speech, never let them see you sweat. Get that alpha dog body language going and smile so they see all your teeth. Above all else, don’t show any vulnerability.
  • Stick to the poll research. Touch all the bases that appeal to the base. Cover so many things that nothing means anything.
  • Follow the formula. There’s an accepted and expected formula for giving the big speech, so stick to it. At this point, you’ve done it so many times you could do it in your sleep. Of course, there’s a pretty good chance that your audience is asleep with their eyes open. If you’re lucky.

Needless to say, I’m not seriously advocating those techniques. I do, however, see a lot of them showing up in leadership settings outside of politics. Here are three ways to avoid showing up as a leader who’s only pretending to be real:

  • Say how you really feel. Try honesty. It can be so rare that it will set you apart. I’m not arguing for unchecked volcanic eruptions or depth-of-depression soliloquies, but you should share your take on the truth.
  • Draw on your life experience. Stay away from fake or clichéd stories and tell some of your own stories. Tell real stories about real people you know who have overcome challenges, done great work or inspire you in some way. Make a connection that people can relate to.
  • Explain the behaviors behind the clichés. There are lot of clichés that show up in organizational mission statements and values lists. They’re so bland and familiar that they often don’t mean anything and feel fake. Don’t just stop with ”Excellence” or “Commitment.” Share what those words mean to you in terms of real life behavior and outcomes.

What’s your take on leaders who fake being real? How do you see them doing it? Better yet, what tells you a leader is really real?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.