I was nestling down in my overstuffed writing chair to finally start a Blog about an article I read in Esquire magazine. The article “Why We Hate” had been bugging me for quite a while.
And then POW! BAM! BOOM!, the Scott McClellan book bombshell hit like a bolt of lightening which made me glad I have a heavy duty surge protector attached to my computer.
Now there have been others like McClellan who departed a White House job and wrote a “Tell All” book, but it’s been awhile since something like this hit the press. He doesn’t just share a few anecdotal items and blame the system. He names names, tells specifics and seems to have the credibility to back up his stories. I know I wouldn’t write a book like that unless I definitely had the facts on my side and wasn’t afraid to use them (i.e. a publisher with plenty of lawyers).
I’m sure McClellan’s publisher has been salivating over the fact that he will sell tons of books. (I’m jealous of course.) Hopefully, his book deal is a good one, since I don’t think anyone on the Republican side of the fence will be offering him a job any time soon. He is definitely a “Man Without a Party” and if I were in his Dockers, I would be watching my backside as well. It will be interesting to see how he does on the speaking circuit.
His book and the subsequent backlash started my head spinning. We’ve seen this all before of course. It happens in politics, government, show business and major league sports. It also happens far too often in our corporate corridors. Places where you and I might congregate.
Like a prairie windstorm, perhaps just like at your workplace, those still in power started to bash him. Stories quickly appeared with statements like: He’s disgruntled. He’s sad. He’s had an emotional breakdown. He’s lying. He wasn’t there. He should have said something. The liberal media has hijacked him. He’s just cashing in to sell books. Bash. Bash. Belittle. Bash.
Without dealing with the content of McClellan’s book (which most of you who stay abreast of the news will not be shocked by but rather amused that someone formerly on the inside is using their outside voice), what’s really going on here? And does it have anything to do with leadership?
My first reaction was that this “loyal dog” was kicked way too many times by his colleagues. I’ll wager that many nights, when he went home, he would vent to his wife about what was happening at “the office.” From what I have heard so far, it appears that the White House, from Scott’s perspective, was being run as if it was in Scranton with Michael Scott at the helm. Too bad millions of real lives were being reamed instead of just pretending to sell reams of paper. From early reports, I also get the impression that there were too many Dwight Schrutes and not enough Jim Halperts. And they are in charge of the freaking world! Gives a whole new meaning to Dunder-Head. (Okay, so to understand some of the above you have to watch “Comedy Night Done Right”, so sue me.)
And then I thought about the Characteristics of Admired Leaders from The Leadership Challenge. The usual top four words in workshops chosen by folks are: Honest, Competent, Inspiring and Forward Looking. Then I thought about the folks who are running the country. Nope. No match. (Sure, if you are in the 25% or so of the country who still thinks the administration is on the right track then you can disagree. Please send me a note; I would love to hear from you.)
Why did it take McClellan so long to share his views? Misplaced loyalty is my first thought. (His earliest statement was he needed to write the book because of “loyalty to the truth and the values I was raised on.”) Thanks Mom and Dad McClellan. You might have tried to teach him to not sit on his hands so long too.
McClellan, like many of our corporate cousins, is a victim of distorted groupthink. He served George Bush when he was in Texas and was a devoted follower. He drank the Kool-Aid until he puked. He knew right from wrong when he saw it. But he couldn’t find his voice. He allowed himself to be dragged along through the muck until he was so dirty that everyone figured he would never revolt. They thought once again “mission accomplished!”
So, how does this relate to you in your organization? Are you the “loyal dog” that sits on its hands? Is your voice distorted by gurgling Kool-Aid? Or, do you just sigh and say, “I hate them all”.
Interesting, I guess I’m back to where I began. “Why We Hate.” Will need to give that more thought.
By the way, full disclosure. I was not wearing a flag pin when writing this.
Posted by Robert H. Thompson is the author of The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable. You may read his more Thought Grenades at www.leaderinsideout.com.