‘The source of the problem, we believe, is the continuing pressure on public companies from financial markets to maximise short –term results. Although some executives have managed to ignore this pressure, it’s unrealistic to expect corporate leaders to do so over time without strong support from investors themselves’ – so pleads a recent article in ‘Harvard Business Review’ by Barton and Wiseman titled ‘Focusing Capital on the Long Term’. This article served as another prod for me to continue to speculate on the gap between the theory and reality of corporate leadership that was the topic of my last post.
In that last blog, I commented upon the contrast between the idealism of leadership writers such as Simon Sinek and the daily realities of corporate life that I experience as a coach to senior leaders. Here is a list of the seven deadly sins of corporate life that I have personally encountered since writing that last blog:-
- Leaders being expected to attend global conference calls at 3am in the morning
- Leaders who are promised bonus payments that are then cancelled and then reinstated following lengthy and debilitating discussions
- Leaders off work with stress due to outbreaks of swearing and insulting behaviour in the office
- Leaders who routinely do not respond to phone calls or emails, who turn up late for meetings and disappear early without a moment’s apology or consideration
- Leaders who delay payment to SME suppliers by weeks and months in order to massage cash flow figures at the financial year end
- Leaders who send colleagues decks of forty powerpoint slides at 10.30pm in the evening expecting others to have mastered the content by 9am the next morning
- Leaders whose phones incessantly jump around, beep, gurgle and buzz dragging their owners’ attention away from each and every conversation
By the time I hit the train home from a day exposed to this corporate tirade, I can hardly bring myself to open my beloved ‘Harvard Business Review’ whose articles extol the theoretically-proven value of work/life balance, the dangers of information overload, the need for emotional intelligence, the beauty of the learning organisation and the long term vision of creating a collaborative business community, in which a degree of care and social consideration are considered de-rigueur.
Am I the only one who thinks that the gap between leadership theory and leadership practice yawns ever wider as each newspaper headline of the latest corporate scandal collides with the utopian thoughts of the latest guru best-seller?
In our own ‘let’s-give-this-all-a-huge-reality-check’ text ‘Challenging Coaching’ we highlight the need to speak our truth and to face the FACTS. Well here I am having a rant and shouting ‘Is it just me? Have I gone insane or does the emperor really have no clothes and it’s just that nobody dare speak up?’ Can someone please, please tell me why we put up with leadership behaviours in corporate life that we would not tolerate for one moment in our personal lives? The institutionalised disrespect, lack of care, lying, exploitation, unreasonableness and routine inhumanity to our fellow man or woman.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any glib answers but I do want to check whether there is a general problem out there and would value your perspective. Either that or, despite the worthiness of commentators such as Barton and Wiseman, I will need to cancel my subscription to ‘Harvard Business Review’ and opt for the all-round harmless entertainment of alternative publications such as ‘OK’ magazine, ‘Racing Post Weekly’ and ‘The Fisherman’s Gazette’.