His father was a respected executive. He was tough on people but he consistently produced good results. He was well known in his industry and respected in the community. His career spanned over 30 years, 20 of those as CEO at his last organization.
When he came into the room, he commanded the space. Conversations immediately ceased. No one spoke without being recognized and called upon to contribute. If you asked his employees to describe this leader, the word respect was always the first thing they said.
But this leader ruled in a different time when top down, authoritarian leadership was accepted. If you asked former employers what they thought, the first word they used was fear. Phrases like “cult” and “dictatorship” also were mentioned.
Then the father introduced his son into the organization. The young man, who respected (or feared) his father, was determined to climb through the ranks and one day assume the job his now retired father had occupied. His dad was his role model and the two, by all accounts, were close. Not achieving that career goal was unimaginable. Like father, like son.
Except these were different times.
The young man’s first big mistake as an up-and-coming manager was to insist that when he came into the room for a meeting, no one would speak until called upon. He grew frustrated when he failed to command the “respect” and “admiration” that his father had seemingly enjoyed. His response: to try harder to be more like his father. But his people did not respond and he only grew more frustrated. Over time, his frustration manifested itself in fits of anger. The organization, concerned with his outburst and mediocre performance, brought in an executive coach but the son gave only cursory support for what he thought was a big waste of time. He was locked in on his goal for success.
On a Friday afternoon, he was called in to see the Chief Human Resource Officer. He was terminated.
In concluding the meeting, the CHRO, who had been in the organization during the father’s reign, offered this advice: “Roy, it is good to have a respected role model. Role models should be used as examples to learn from, not copy. Learning how to succeed in your own right, with your own style, that is the real sign of respect for someone you admire.”
© 2017 John Gregory Self