LEADERS DO NOT SUBMERGE THEIR VALUES TO POWER OR INFLUENCE – THEY RETAIN THEIR HUMILITY
I never know in advance where I will receive ideas for this weekly leadership newsletter. Sometimes subjects come from books or articles I read. Others are derived from coaching sessions with clients. Still other subjects arise based upon conversations with friends or family members.
Today I want to convey a theme I picked up from our rabbi’s sermon yesterday in synagogue. Our rabbi admitted that he has been very interested in the continuing saga of George Santos. He used the big word “fabulism” to describe Congressman Santos’s behavior as it has been reported and as he has partially admitted, and then compared Santos to the most famous prophet in the Old Testament, Moses.
As I listened, I said to myself, “Wow. This may be the first time ever that anyone anywhere has used the names of George Santos and Moses in the same sentence!” Then I asked myself, “What am I going to learn here?”
The rabbi said that a Columbia University study discovered that people in power tend to lie more easily because the psychological, emotional, and cognitive effects of being in power tend to override their conscience or instinct not to lie.
That adrenaline of being in the public eye, the rush of recognition and fame, the allure of being a person of influence and celebrity is just so intoxicating for some people that they develop a sense of immunity from lies or misrepresentation. They think, “If I lie or manipulate the truth to make myself look more impressive to you, my voters, my constituents, my colleagues, my teammates, my direct reports, then I will have even more access to power and prestige.” The rabbi went on to ask whether this is one way to understand the behavior of people like George Santos.
I thought back over my career, primarily at Georgetown Law Center. Had I ever known University administrators, senior lawyers at major corporations, federal government agency heads, law firm managing partners or state and federal judges who allowed their power and influence to almost unconsciously affect their values and the way they showed up for other people?
Yes, I had. Unfortunately, I had witnessed too many people who, when rising to new levels of authority, power or influence, had changed their own attitudes and behaviors. Sometimes, I saw, it came from an abiding insecurity. Other times the changes were based upon a desire to be liked. Still other leaders changed their attitudes or behaviors because they wanted to avoid conflict at all costs.
Think back on your career? Have you ever allowed the accrual of power and influence to help warp your values and how you treat people?
Our rabbi explained that in the book of Exodus Moses is set to become a powerful, influential, heroic leader who faces down a dominant national leader, the king of Egypt. However, Moses is under no illusions of grandeur. He doubts himself. He questions his qualifications. He claims he is not articulate. He wants his people to know who they are really getting as their leader. He does not believe he is the best person for the task at hand.
As our rabbi said: “What a refreshing and wildly countercultural idea:
-Being flawed is okay.
-Being open and vulnerable about your weaknesses areas of potential growth is not a strike against you.
-Nowadays, when people are constantly curating their pictures and stories on social media, maybe you don’t have to portray perfection to your followers or friends.”
So as you continue on your unique leadership journey, I encourage you to remain true to who you are.
Acknowledge your own challenges.
Strive to improve in those areas where you believe you need strengthening.
Be your best self and know that you are good enough.