A little while ago, we wrote about the recent
trend for ‘leaders’ to search out their authenticity. When that quest is coupled to a corporate communications function… well the result was never going to be pretty.
[we will use the term ‘authority figure’ for leader here on out – not only because it’s more accurate, but also because it doubles our word count – and eventual fee]
Here’s the deal:
- The authority figure wants to create an impression of what he is not
- The professional in the communicator knows they need to support the authority figure in creating that impression
- But the writer in the communicator just wants to describe the leader they wish the authority figure was (but isn’t)
Surprisingly, everyone wins – because they all draw upon stereotypes to express themselves. And the funny thing about stereotypes is that… well… er… we all have them – and I don’t have to agree with anyone else about what mine means to me. We can choose the same stereotype and take away very different meanings.
So, for example, the authority figure, having read enough books to know that ‘Change Management’ is a big thing these days
[NOTE: it is very important to capitalize words like Change Management so as to add import to your sales pitch – you may say you should capitalize it in order to… wait for it… capitalize upon it]
and wanting to be authentic, knows that they need to create an impression of welcoming, leading and thriving in change.
The professional communicator goes looking for role models of change.
While the writer draws upon probably the most over-used quote about change because it gives them a warm and tingly feeling all up and down their spine:
“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Which was Ghandi – and the authority figure, professional and writer know that there was a movie about him by Richard Attenborough, so he must be a role model. And in one fell swoop, the authority figure’s inauthentic authenticity has been tagged as being Ghandi-like, gaining perceived personality by association.
[and, BTW, do we even need to mention that most corporate authority figures are baby boomers? They LOVE Ghandi. For them, Ghandi is like MLK without the race angle…]
Everyone celebrates and goes home with the comfort blanket of having survived another day.
There was only one Mahatma Ghandi
[and, yes, the Brits just started a football chant]
yet how many corporate authority figures have been likened to that one-off?
We’re guessing tens of thousands. Not to mention all the wannabe professional climbers who buy into the myth.
So, if all these tens of thousands of mini-Ghandis
[and he was kinda short already, so you know that they’re likely to have REAL Napoleon complexes]
are being the change they want to see in the world, then we have to presume that the change they want to see in the world is to not change anything at all.
Which is why BadConsultant tends to snigger out loud when authority figures get called leaders.
So, with all that in mind, we wanted to provide more reasonable, rational and, above all else, authentic words to describe the average authority figure:
“[…] was not a man who accepted the hand life dealt him. In his mind, boundaries were as much mental shackles as physical restraints – and he was not a man to be hemmed in by tradition, especially when a few audacious risks here and there could be balanced against huge personal and political gain. As someone who was starting out with more ambition than real influence, he needed to work his way up the hard way – by earning vast sums of money to fund his political goals. For that he needed a success on the scale of Alexander the Great, an achievement that would ensure his name echoed… in tones of hushed reverence, something that would quell the doubters and win him the position he felt he deserved… “
That’s actually a lift from the book ‘Boudica’ by Vanessa Collingridge, describing the young Julius Caesar. In BadConsultant‘s experience, this is much closer to the reality of authority figures: working hard, pulled forward by ambition, taking risks that are in their own manifest self-interest. All of which tied to expectation of entitlement to the big job.
It is the achievement and personalized power motives writ large.
And, though he doesn’t get mentioned much in modern organizations, there’s much more Caesar to the reality than Ghandi. But in our politically correct world, naked ambition is now a no-no
[slightly-veiled ambition, however, is just fine and dandy]
and conquering others is, like, sooooo not something we do any more
[pay no attention to the Iraq and Afghanistan behind the curtain]
so no authority figure, professional communicator or writer would dare to even consider using Caesar as the touch-stone for exemplary leadership.
Wouldn’t it just be easier for all involved, instead of opining and searching for the elusive
role-model leader, to celebrate the Caesar within?
Wouldn’t it be more… erm… authentic?
Or would it risk uncovering the embarrassing truth that even then, when compared to Caesar, the authority figure is little more than a young boy playing at ‘Romans’?
Have a wonderful day,