Ever wondered what could go wrong in leadership? HBO’s Succession is practically a masterclass on the subject. This gripping tale focuses on the Roy family, led by the cunning patriarch Logan Roy. His children could easily fill the roster for ‘Leadership Don’ts 101.’ The show deeply resonated with me, offering a trove of cautionary tales on how not to lead. Let’s delve into some of these eye-opening lessons.
The Self-Absorbed Leader
In HBO’s “Succession,” the Roy family members are so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t see past their reflection. This trait sharply contrasts with what Jim Collins espouses in his book, Good to Great, “Leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well. And when things go poorly, they look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m responsible.'”
- Quick Tip: Exceptional leaders are selfless. They recognize that their role is serving others— their team, shareholders, or customers. The credit for success is shared, and responsibility for setbacks is owned.
The Ambition Trap
Ambition can fuel the rise of great leaders. However, as Napoleon Bonaparte stated, “Great ambition is the passion of great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.” The Roy’s demonstrate the darker aspects of ambition, which are motivated solely by personal gain.
- Quick Tip: Balanced ambition, on the other hand, is channeled toward goals that benefit not just the individual but the entire team and organization. When you leverage ambition for collective achievement, you truly lead.
A Cautionary Tale of Dysfunction
The Roy family could easily be a case study in Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” which pinpoints the issues of an absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. The Roy’s embody all these dysfunctions, often all in one episode.
- Quick Tip: High-performing teams are built on a foundation of trust, embrace healthy conflict, show commitment to decisions, hold each other accountable, and focus keenly on achieving results. Leaders should aim to cultivate these positive traits within their teams.
The Lure of Expedience
Tom Wambsgans, the bootlicking in-law, personifies expediency. He lives by what Martin Luther King, Jr. warned against: “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
- Quick Tip: Exceptional leaders choose the right course of action, even when it’s the path of most resistance. They weigh their decisions carefully and act in line with their ethical principles.
The Illusion of Alignment
In the climax of “Succession,” the Roy siblings demonstrate that being in the same room doesn’t mean you’re on the same page. Real alignment is about shared values and unified objectives.
- Quick Tip: Consistently communicating your organization’s purpose, vision, and mission keeps everyone aligned. When a team understands how their individual contributions ladder up to the larger goals, it fosters a powerful sense of unity.
“Succession” isn’t just a cautionary tale but a vivid lesson on what not to embody as a leader. So, the next time you’re at a leadership juncture, consider asking yourself, “What would the Roy’s do?” Then, do the opposite. Ready to be the leader you were meant to be? Your team isn’t just waiting; they’re craving the exceptional leader you can be.
Want to become an exceptional leader? Visit my website, http://www.prestonpoore.com, today!
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Evan, my co-worker at our multi-billion-dollar consumer products company, stopped me in the parking lot. “Have you noticed how execution’s gotten sloppy over the past year?”
He looked down. “Not too long ago, this was one of the best-executing markets. I’m very disappointed. What’s happened?”
I paused. I did know what had happened, but if I told Evan the truth, I knew there’d be consequences. Maybe even for Evan himself. But integrity is a word that means something to me, so I mustered up my courage and told him what I knew. “Did you know the local management team is running a side business out of the office?”
Shocked, he just said, “No.”
“The local team is focused on building their side business, and they’re using company assets for personal gain. They’re violating our Code of Business Conduct, and they’ve lost focus on their primary job responsibilities. That’s the reason execution is so sloppy.”
I could tell that Evan didn’t quite believe me, so I walked him over to a manager’s company vehicle in the parking lot.
“See that?” I pointed to a window decal on the manager’s windshield. “That’s the logo for their side business.”
He shook his head.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg too. If you poke around, you’ll probably find out what’s going on.”
“I will, Preston. I will.”
True to his word, Evan poked. He discovered that the local management team had invented a new sports gadget and were leveraging the company’s people, tools, and supplies to build their side business. Over time, they’d become so consumed with growing their business that they neglected their primary responsibility: marketplace execution.
If questioned about negative business results, the team deflected the inquiries and pointed to factors “outside their control.” They disguised their side interest by saying all the right things to upper management. Consequently, the team was left alone to work on their own business on our company’s dime. Eventually, their audio and video didn’t match. Without accountability, the team had abandoned their integrity and slowly moved into corruption.
After my conversation with Evan, I knew that the circumstances and potential consequences would escalate. I called my manager and told him about the conversation. My manager told Human Resources and other leaders about the likely Code of Business Conduct violation.
Several local market leaders were fired for leveraging company assets and personally gaining from their efforts after an investigation.
Looking back, I’m glad I made the right decision even though it was tough and even though I was saddened that some employees lost their jobs. But the experience reminded me of the necessity of integrity—with others and with myself.
I learned that when you become a person of integrity, you can become a leader, others will follow because of your honesty.
Unfortunately, one more potential consequence came to pass due to that side-business hustle operation going on right under my nose. The investigation also revealed that Evan might have seen the signals but had turned his head and ignored them. Regardless, he was found to be complicit and was forced to retire.
It was a bittersweet moment. I’d worked with the team for years and didn’t want any harm to come to them. At the same time, I knew I needed to expose the wrong I saw. For years after these displacements, I worked in fear of retribution, thinking that someone would take revenge for my standing up for what was right.
Gratefully, that never happened, and I remained true to my value of integrity. Now, anytime I’m tempted to skirt the truth in my words or actions, I think about that side-business logo that ultimately cost multiple people their jobs.
It doesn’t take much for a house of cards to fall.
That’s why leaders need to lead with integrity. If you’re the one responsible for building a strong team or a strong company, your peers and employees need to know they can trust you.
Being integrous is hard but worth the cost because it will be your best friend and help you achieve your goals. So, how does one measure their integrity? In John C. Maxwell’s book, Becoming a Person of Influence, he offers ten questions to evaluate your integrity [i]. As you read the questions, rate yourself from 1 to 10, with ten being fully integrous and 1 with no integrity:
1. How well do I treat people from whom I can gain nothing?
2. Am I transparent with others?
3. Do I role-play based on the person(s) I’m with?
4. Am I the same person when I’m in the spotlight as I am when I’m alone?
5. Do I quickly admit wrongdoing without being pressed to do so?
6. Do I put other people ahead of my personal agenda?
7. Do I have an unchanging standard for moral decisions, or do circumstances determine my choices?
8. Do I make difficult decisions, even when they have a personal cost attached to them?
9. When I have something to say about people, do I talk to them or about them?
10. Am I accountable to at least one other person for what I think, say, and do?
Did any of those hit home? Take some time to reflect and choose your three areas that need the most improvement. Then, pick your top area of needed improvement. Ask yourself, why is it essential for me to improve in this area? How will I become a better person and a better leader? Why will it be necessary to others? What actions will I take to grow, when will I start, and who will hold me accountable?
Take time to write down your answers to the above questions. Let the words from my lips move to your fingertips. If you do, you’ll know what you think by reading what you write. Also, share what you’ve written down with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Real change begins when you are vulnerable and transparent with someone and ask for their support.
I’ll end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “God grant that men (and women) of principle be our principal men (and women).” [ii] May you be integrous in all of your ways and be a man or woman of principle.
Want to discover how to level up your leadership skills and become a person others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
[i]Excerpt From John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354
[ii]Excerpt From John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354
Our manager, Kevin, suddenly charged into the room and sat down at the conference table.
“Okay, let’s see what you’ve got!” he exclaimed.
“Hi, Kevin. How are you today?” I said with a smile, trying to lighten his mood and begin our meeting on a positive note.
Kevin replied, “I don’t have time today for small talk. Let’s go through your presentation and determine the next steps.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Peter, my teammate, and I presented three different promotional displays to Kevin. We discussed the construction, benefits, and potential cost of each display. Kevin seemed to like the options and asked how we could gain national customer team feedback.
The conversation came up once before, and I recommended using an internet survey. Kevin turned it down the first time. During this discussion, I thought I’d revisit the survey option. After I mentioned it, Kevin shook his head and said, “Nope, already rejected.”
I gently pushed back and asked him to reconsider. I began my response with, “I don’t mean to challenge you, but….”
Not good. As soon as the words left my mouth, Kevin’s face turned red; he slammed his computer shut and shouted: “But you are challenging me, and I don’t appreciate it!” Throwing a tantrum, he got up and began to walk out of the room. Wanting to solve the issue, I followed him out the door. I asked Kevin to wait a moment and told him that I was just trying to make a suggestion. I told him I didn’t appreciate being treated that way, especially in front of a team member.
Kevin said, “Are you going to confront me in the hallway right now?”
“No,” I said, staring at the floor. He told me we’d talk later and walked away. I went home deflated.
The following day, Kevin called me into his office. When I arrived, he asked me to sit down. Then he said, “I am going to tell you some things, and you cannot respond.”
I looked at him inquisitively and thought, “I’m in for it; this can’t be good.” He was about to give me feedback. He told me that he wanted me to think about it and then we’d talk again. So, I sat in silence, ready to listen.
“Preston, I was relatively easy on you yesterday. Other executives would have torn you to shreds.”
“Really?” I thought to myself.
“You’re not helping me, you’re not being a team player, and you don’t listen well. You’ve got to change, or you’ll be out of a job.” I held my tongue, honoring his request, and thanked him for the feedback.
I walked away from the conversation madder than a hornet. I was highly offended. I’d worked very hard, accomplished so much, but Kevin always marginalized me. Kevin retaliated by implying my job was in jeopardy. A molehill was made into a mountain, and I resented Kevin for it. As a matter of fact, I resented Kevin and his management style for the two years I worked on his team. My constant feelings of bitterness were taking their toll. What was I going to do?
All leaders experience resentment from time to time. What is resentment? It’s an emotion that wells up inside when you feel like you’ve been mistreated or offended. Hard feelings, frustration or anger, can come from any number of sources, including not gaining someone’s respect, not receiving appreciation for a job well done, not being assigned to a special project, being passed over for a promotion, an unspoken apology, or rejection. Resentment is the most toxic of all emotions because it can lead to anger, hate, discord, divorce, aggressive driving, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even violence.
If you hold a grudge against someone, the bitterness will fester inside and eventually destroy you. It begins as an emotional trigger and, if harbored, will become a mood impacting behavior. Resentment is a heavy burden you carry, affecting your relationships and health. As the adage goes, “Bitterness is the poison one swallows as he or she hopes the other person dies.”
If resentment is so dangerous, what is the antidote? Forgiveness. If you forgive someone, you stop blaming him or her for the offense. You let go and move on. The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
How do you forgive someone? Employ the four steps to forgiveness:
- Acknowledge your anger, then drop it and move on. It’s okay to be angry but don’t allow it to last. Let go of the anger when offended or wronged by someone. Don’t harbor it. Anger can lead to hate and violence. Resentment will break you unless you break it first. Put down the poison and move on.
- Stand in their shoes. Realize that everyone is perfectly imperfect. The Christian leader remembers God forgave them, and that same mercy should be shown to others.
- Respond with good, not revenge. Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Ask God to change your heart and enable you to return the offense with a positive reaction. Practice the Golden Rule – do to others as you’d have them do to you. Remember, love is patient, kind, and doesn’t seek its own way.
- Pray. Ask God to forgive you and enable you to forgive the one who offended you.
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment for years. I often dwell on circumstances and people when I feel disenfranchised, demoralized, or undignified. In the above story, I let my manager get the best of me. I should have taken responsibility for my words and actions. I didn’t need to challenge Kevin after he’d made a decision or chase him into the hallway to confront him. I needed to exercise more self-control and give him space. It would have been better if I’d approached him later, apologized, and asked how I could help; personal leadership lessons learned that I applied to future situations.
The good news is that I recognized the impact bitterness was having on me and those around me. I discovered that the best antidote to resentment is forgiveness. I let go of my grudge, and my well-being improved tremendously; I no longer felt the weight of bitterness. I found that my mental outlook improved, relationships healed, and I felt much better.
How about you? Do you resent someone? Are you holding a grudge? If so, how is it impacting you? What will happen if you continue holding on to the resentment? Are you willing to forgive the individual? Why not forgive that someone today? If you do, your well-being will improve, your relationships will heal, and you’ll be a more successful leader.
Want to learn more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
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