by Michael Holland    

Within a span of several weeks in early 2014, Governor Chris Christie of NJ (with his potential involvement with Bridgegate), and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning(with his horrific Super Bowl loss) were both faced with a vivid reality.  One moment they were almost invincible, perched high on great pedestals that were rising toward stardom, and the next moment they were tumbling hopelessly down.  They come from entirely different worlds – a politician and an elite athlete, respectively – and have very different daily/weekly/monthly cycles.  Since their fall, however, their future will depend greatly upon how they saw themselves on that pedestal, for it is that perception that directs their reactions to their failures.

As leaders, we have our own pedestals.  Do we create our own?  Are they created for us by others? Or do we enable the building of our pedestal without necessarily promoting it? Regardless of how it happens, leaders do end up on some type of pedestal.  The key thing to focus on is how we perceive ourselves up there.

Our finest hour comes when the pedestal on which we are perched is suddenly pulled away, because this is when our true nature comes forward.

Make sure you’re not telling yourself any of these 5 lies as you build – or enable the building of – your pedestal.

  1. I’m Smarter – Are you?  Really?  Being one step ahead of your employees because you have access to information they do not doesn’t make you smarter.  Neither, for that matter, does your title.
  2. I See More Clearly – Just because you’ve climbed to the top of the trees to look out over the terrain to see the path forward through the forest doesn’t mean you have better vision for where to go.  It just means you were the one who was told to climb the tree by some guy who is in a higher tree than you.
  3. I’m a Great Communicator – Hmmmm.  Employees seem to listen.  They nod, they agree, they laugh at your jokes.  You tell them once a year how they are doing, you tell them what to get done, and you tell them how important the goals are to your bonus. And then you tell them how important teamwork is.  You tell them many things… but is that the same thing as good communication?
  4. My Employees Like Working for Me – Employees giving up their time to be in your company because they are being paid to do so is light years away from your employees enjoying to work for you.  Their friends and significant others know the truth.
  5. I’m Critical – You may be.  You may be the most important cog in the organizational machine.  You may be the glue that holds it all together.  You might want to update your LinkedIn profile while you confidence is so high.

Our finest hour comes when the pedestal on which we are perched is suddenly pulled away, because this is when our true nature comes forward.  Let’s watch the Governor and the quarterback to see how they handle their future.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Think of a time when you took a fall from a pedestal. How did it feel? What did you learn from it?
  • How do you see yourself on your pedestal?
  • #3 makes a distinction between talking and communicating. What makes for true “good communication”?