If you’re following the news this week, you’ve seen the headlines about Hillary Clinton using a private email account supported by her own private email server during the four years she served as secretary of State. As far as this blog is concerned, I’m not really interested in speculating on her motivation or intent in doing so. Nor, am I interested in spending time here parsing the legalities of how she managed her email.
What I am interested in, though, is the prompt that this story provides to consider this question:
“If you’re a leader, do the same rules that apply to everyone else apply to you?”
In Clinton’s case, it’s pretty clear that the expectation was that she would conduct her official email correspondence on a State Department email account. No doubt, there were plenty of people at the department (and not just the folks in IT) who knew she wasn’t sending or receiving emails at a state.gov email address. But how hard is it to push back on a leader with the profile of Hillary Clinton? Pretty hard, apparently.
If you’re the leader of a team of any size—from 10 to 10,000 to 100,000—do you really want it to be that way for you? I don’t think you do. When you operate by your own set of rules, you send the message that you’re above it all. It’s the biggest signal you can send that you really don’t care what your people think. When your people sense that you don’t care what they think, they disengage and hold back. If only from the practical standpoint of getting the best possible results, that’s why leaders should follow the same rules that apply to everyone else.
That’s what I think. What do you think?