by Michael Holland     

When an employee makes a dishonorable decision, they create small ripples of hurt.  When executives make dishonorable decisions, they hurt whole organizations of people as well as those with whom the people interact.  Hundreds if not thousands of people are impacted.

There’s a standard to which most of us hold ourselves: a moral compass, a value system, a belief in doing the right thing.  But every now and then, we come across an executive whose selfish, narcissistic, inappropriate behavior creates a terrible and long-lasting ripple of distrust, heartbreak, and disappointment.  The wave of impact ripples through the organization person by person and team by team, and though the wave decreases in intensity as it bounces around, there’s a longevity to it as the ripples keep rolling outward.

  • Employees’ trust barometers go haywire.  They wonder which other executives are doing bad things.  All executives and managers are lumped together into a perceived pool of powerful people who—when prompted with self-interest or greed or entitlement—will make selfish choices.  None are to be fully trusted.
  • Young managers lose their bearings.  These impressionable leaders looking for role models to reveal the art and science of good management and leadership wonder just who they should emulate.  They find themselves the object of collateral scorn while grieving the tarnish to their profession and unrewarded daily effort to do the right things.
  • Families and communities lose momentum.  Every employee goes home and seeks some level of support from their families, friends, and those within their communities with whom they interact.  With each conversation, the burden is spread and the impact ripples further.  Conversations trend negative.  Disappointment abounds.  Another thin layer of belief in people with power taking proper care of the precious resources is sanded away.

It is so disappointing that the few who make such poor decisions have such a large impact on the rest of us.

Kudos to those leaders who remain in the organization to carry the burden; to those leaders who get up every day to strive to lead well in the face of adversity; to those leaders who will invest heavily to re-build trust.  And kudos to those leaders who will ignore legal counsel advice in order to tell future companies seeking references on these dishonored leaders that they shouldn’t hire them.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Have you ever been affected by someone’s dishonorable, narcissistic leadership? What happened? What did you do to minimize the damage? What could you have done differently?
  • Take a moment to clarify what the moral standard that you hold yourself to is, then write it down clearly and articulately. Use it as a reference when making decisions to prevent yourself from becoming an accidental dishonorable, narcissistic leader.