Leaders, Are You Betraying Your People?

By Sarah Agan

April 21, 2014

If you are a leader in the federal government, and doing your job, at some point you will likely betray the people in your organization in pursuing the higher purpose required of a public servant (and being a leader in general). 

Your larger responsibility is to sustain the governmental organization, which serves the public interest. In a world driven by constant change, you must adapt and lead your organization in adapting. To adapt you may disrupt the status quo, and when you disrupt the status quo individuals in your organization may feel betrayed.  It sucks, and you’ll likely have to do it at some point— if (and that’s a big if) you accept the responsibilities that come with being a leader. 

The word betrayal sends chills up my spine and creates a general sense of “ick.”  I suspect it’s the same for many people.  As with many things in life, without context it’s nearly impossible to understand how leadership betrayal could possibly be considered appropriate in modern organizational life.  However, in researching theories around complex adaptive systems for a client leadership development program, I ran across a stirring article written by James Krantz and associated with the Tavistock Institute  in London.  To grossly summarize, Krantz suggests that leaders often commit virtuous betrayal in the course of exercising their leadership responsibilities during times of organizational change.

I don’t like this idea, at all.  I really don’t want to agree with this and I find the mere thought of this deeply troubling.  Unfortunately, after reading the article in full, I agree with many of the tenets.  Here are a few observations and excerpts:

As Krantz notes, it does seem much writing about leadership glamorizes and idealizes what it means to be a leader.  This thought piece is perhaps the most confronting and compelling I’ve come across in the recent past as it relates to the harsh realities of what it can mean to be an effective organizational leader.

The article is 20 pages and requires time and space to digest Krantz’ propositions.  Read it.  Then, I’d love to hear your reactions.

(Image via Tom Wang/Shutterstock.com)


By Sarah Agan

April 21, 2014

http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2014/04/leaders-are-you-betraying-your-people/82882/