Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sophie's Choice

Increasingly we are being challenged to make a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ when discussing those in positions of leadership.  Our choices are, too often it seems, between competence and character.

In some instances it has been this whole issue of harassment – sexual, physical, emotional etc. – that so many leaders have exhibited.  The list grows daily and I suspect that we have only just begun to scratch the surface.

In other instances it has been fiduciary. We learn of schemes like those at Wells Fargo or TD Bank where fake bank and credit cards accounts have been set up simply to achieve financial goals.  This, in turn, has allowed executives to ‘earn’ substantial bonuses and inflate stock values.

And then there are the numerous cover up’s that we learn of only well after the fact.  Equifax, Uber and others come to mind as examples in which leaders have not been forthright with the public in disclosing data breaches or other activities of material interest and importance.

In all of these examples, those in positions of responsibility have somehow concluded that leadership is an either / or proposition.  They expect us to make Sophie’s Choice between competence and character.  Essentially they want us to overlook their moral, ethical and legal shortcomings because the delivered on the performance metrics.

But they miss the point.  Leadership must always be a BOTH / AND proposition.  Competence and character are interlinked.  Indeed the former is only confirmed by the latter.  There cannot be true competence without unimpeached character.

Sadly, we have come to not only tolerate this type of behaviour but to expect it.  There is no universal outcry or rally against it nor is there any true penalty.  Abusers simply cash in their chips and move on.  The consequences rarely fit the crime!

Authentic leaders need to be more vocal in their condemnation of their peers’ behaviour.  The media must find a moral compass and communicate truth.  The public must demand more!

If you are in a position of leadership then you are also in a position of influence.  Make 2018 a year in which you elevate your competence, your character and your voice.  The silent majority must also take its’ stand against these trends and end the Sophie’s Choice dilemma.

Taking a strong position often requires that we offend others.  But the stakes are too high to ignore.  Leaders must lead!

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