I remember interviewing someone for a key leadership position at my operation in Thailand, and halfway through the conversation, as he was telling me about his qualifications, he announced, with much pride, that he was an alcoholic and had a lot of passion for what he did. Startled at this revelation and puzzled as to why he would so freely divulge this information and wear it as a badge of honor, I circled back to the comment and asked him to elaborate a little. He went on to mention a few more times that he had been an alcoholic for as long as he could remember and that his job always came first. Upon further questioning, the poor fellow realized that he had been saying “alcoholic” when he meant to be saying “workaholic!”
We’re going to jump right back into the discussion we started in last week’s post, “Why Good Leaders Go Bad: Brilliant Jerks,” and continue our exploration of the anatomy of brilliant jerks. In this post, we’re specifically going into how resistance to change factors into why good leaders go bad. This is also another post on the longer side, so without further ago, let’s get back into it
This week on the blog, in somewhat a change of pace, we are going to get a little topical. Over the weekend, I had an experience that taught me a few important lessons about what it means to be a leader, and I thought this experience would make an equally valuable teachable moment for my readers and followers. I don’t know if I could sum up the lesson in a single phrase, but what became clear to me as a result of this experience is that confidence without humility results in loss of credibility and arrogance in any form erodes one’s ability to be a leader. So, this week, I want to begin a multi-part series to explore why and how good leaders go “bad.” The topic for this week is the anatomy of the “brilliant jerk.” We’ll be looking at this specific incident, uncovering its implications for leadership in general, and figuring out what it means with regard to what leaders owe to themselves and others.
I will never forget the look on my kids’ faces the first time they were served a summons to appear in court. They were about 9 and 10 years old. The letters addressed to them arrived in the mail. Somewhat excited and surprised that they had received official looking correspondence in the mail, they opened them and started reading: “You are hereby summoned to appear in…” That’s when they started to get a bit concerned. Bewildered by the idea that they would need to go to court, they handed me the letters, hoping that I could explain what was going on and whether there had been some sort of mistake. As it turned out, there hadn’t been any mistake at all.
When I was a kid growing up in Iran, I remember that we only had a handful of channels on TV and after a certain hour, they all displayed that dreadful TV test card and played a high-pitched sound as if to say, “Why are you still awake watching this boring display of talking heads?” There was no Internet or other form of digital entertainment, of course, so those few hours of TV were cherished and celebrated simply because they were the cutting edge of entertainment at the time; it didn’t matter what was on TV, all that mattered was that the TV was on, as boring as it might be by today’s standards.