Monday, November 3, 2014

Do we really want authenticity? (the 2014 edition)

Another tragedy.

Another case in which a leader steps before the cameras after the tragedy.

Another case in which the leader's stature is enhanced as a result.

The latest example of such a leader is Richard Branson, responding to the tragic loss of life in a Virgin Galactic test flight last week. A sample:

I am writing this as we refuel on one of the most difficult trips I have ever had to make. I will be in Mojave soon to join the Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composite teams involved in the SpaceShipTwo flight test program. Mojave is also where I want to be – with the dedicated and hard-working people who are now in shock at this devastating loss.

And as a result, people are using this as a teaching moment to suggest how leaders should respond in the future.

Michele Lutz's first derived lesson?

Be human.

Lutz goes on to explain what she means, but her explanation doesn't match her initial two-word statement.

Why not? Because often when we are truly human, we not only expose our greatest strengths, but also our weaknesses and our warts.

I've already talked about my favorite example of a leader who was honest - and human - and who received a ton of negative press as a result. BP's Tony Hayward was certainly human and honest when he said, "I want my life back," and I would probably have done the same. But that response, to put it mildly, wasn't popular.

Another example was exhibited by someone who is usually in control in front of the cameras, Paul McCartney. It must be wonderful to be McCartney's publicist, since the man is gifted in staying on topic and saying the "right" thing.

With one notable exception.

When his long-time songwriting partner John Lennon was murdered, a shocked McCartney was questioned about it. When one looks at his human response, it doesn't seem "right."

It's a drag.

In this case, McCartney's brain was on overload, and he was unable to come up with the right thing to say. Decades later, even McCartney fans debate the topic.

It sounds like we don't want our leaders to be human, but to be superhuman.
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