Leadership That Matters, Part 17

If your organization doesn’t value altruistic leadership, after a while, the enlightened will get so worn down from beating up against that wall that they will give up or move on.  There are plenty of places in which this environment exists, and while I like to think that eventually good triumphs over stupidity, I know plenty of cases where not only did the “leaders” fail, but they dragged down the whole organization in the process.

In one case I am familiar with, the CEO was not only beating down everyone around them, but performing criminal acts as well. His more worthwhile subordinates were trying to save the company but those whose interests were to save themselves only managed to prolong the inevitable.  In the real world, judgment doesn’t come swiftly from the heavens to reward the just and to punish evil.  This company slowly and painfully went into default and ultimately, the people hurt the most were those who tried to keep the place afloat to the bitter end.  Life isn’t always fair.

But if anything can benefit from transformational and altruistically motivated leadership, it is indeed the organization.  The reason is that regardless of how well you perform, crises will occur over time, and the organizations that weather those challenges best are ones that are value-centered to begin with.

Entities who are untrue to their expressed values find that when a storm arises, there is ambiguity in how to right the ship.  Those who see that integrity isn’t necessarily rewarded will lean toward the solutions that cover their asses the best.  There is discipline in transformational behavior, in that people take actions based on the greater good, or for the right reasons, rather than based on self-interest.  People enmeshed in a mercenary culture won’t be manning the lines when there isn’t anything left to reward them with, they’ll be sneaking onto the lifeboats.

When as a leader you can point at certain values and say, “This is what we expect you to do, regardless of the situation”, you can expect that the people who are on board will act accordingly, especially if you personally hold those values to be true.  If you don’t adhere to those values yourself, don’t be surprised if your followers act exactly as you do.

Morale, it is said, is the great force multiplier.  Transformational leadership can exist in a culture that doesn’t value it, but unfortunately, if it doesn’t get the chance to root, it dies on the vine.  If you say you value excellence but settle constantly for mediocrity, mediocrity is what you will get.  If you say that you value innovation and settle for the status quo, be prepared to see stasis.  If you say you value integrity, but the back stabbers and ass-kissers are the ones who get promoted, you can be reassured those will be the characteristics of those who desire promotion.

The only way to develop transformational leaders is to demonstrate that you value transformational leaders.  If individuals see that altruism is acknowledged and rewarded, they will act accordingly, and they will begin to develop those characteristics not because they are rewarded, but because they realize that it is the right thing to do.


  • Craig Simons says:

    Another great article! I cannot emphasize the amount truth that is written and explained just in the first paragraph. I witness this type of behavior all the time including in my own department. Keep up the great wrting Chief Mayers.

  • ouremssite says:

    I just want to say that this piece was extraordinary in its truth. I have seen many companies suffer from this and find it very hard to advocate for self improvement when the company only half hearted encourages it. Thank you for your writing.

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