You might be surprised.

1. How awkward would it be, let alone inappropriate, for your boss to stand beside the rest room door and time you with a stopwatch every time you needed to use the facilities?

2. What if you made a minor error on a report and your boss told you to stand up on a  chair in the middle of the room and spin around while apologizing to your peers for screwing up?

3. What would you think if the senior vice president of your Fortune 50 company prohibited you from allowing a bellman to help you unload boxes (at a hotel where you were facilitating a training workshop) because she did not want the company to pay for his tip? (Meanwhile, the corporate jet was at her disposal…)

4. What would you do if your manager referred to your idea as “stupid” in front of the entire team at a meeting?

5. How would you react to your company president being so paranoid that he threatened to mow down anyone’s door with a chain saw if they “shut their “f___ing” door?

6. How would you react if a male vice president, who was a large body-builder type from another department, decided to stand by the door to stare you down when you were just a couple of minutes late to work?

7. What if your manager cussed out staff members on a regular basis when she became agitated, which happened frequently? (Yet, to senior leaders she was always polite, professional, and helpful.)

8. Imagine your manager becoming visibly angry because you needed to take time off for the death of your mother.

The leader behaviors described above seem farfetched.  While many seem unimaginable, they have all happened and are only a sampling.  Of course, the chainsaw, funeral leave request, and refusal to tip the bellman may be extreme outliers but all of these are real situations.  How do bad behaviors such as these continue to occur with over a hundred billion dollars being spent on leadership development each year?

If we peek past the corporate walls, the examples above are, fortunately, not the norm.  However, showing a lack of respect, concern, and support for staff or stakeholders is fairly common. More often than not, the published core values are not the “living” leadership values for many organizations.

More than 20 years ago before launching CDR Assessment Group, Inc., I was facilitating a “Leadership with Integrity” training workshop for an energy company. During the workshop, I had a senior vice president participating say that the company’s Expectations for Leaders “was a bunch of crap, just words on paper.”  He boasted, they “could and would do whatever the hell they wanted to.”  I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn that just a couple of years later, this company lost most of their market share and was near junk bond status because of reckless trading, financial deals and, from my judgment, executive ineptitude and arrogance.

Finding leaders who have the true talent and applied values to lead should be first priority for all organizations.  Too often, organizations move people into positions or promote them for the wrong reasons. Many times, individuals are non-fits for the leader roles they are placed in.  Or, senior leadership looks the other way, just focusing on bottom line results.   While they may initiate executive coaching and leadership training, too often, there is no real accountability for bad behaviors.

Two things companies need to do to make nasty leader behaviors, and marginally bad behaviors (the most common), a thing of the past are to:

1. Develop clear, on point livable core values and hold leaders accountable.  Actively showing respect for each other is a good place to start.

One of the best resources in establishing “real” core values that are “livable” can be found in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage.   When it comes to core values, he suggests that there should only be two or three that lie at the heart of the organizational identity, that they do not change over time, and must already exist. [i]    One company’s core values Lencioni shares as an example, was that “everyone must be willing to sweep floors.”   This meant to the company that everyone needed to be willing to do what was necessary to help the business succeed and that no job was beneath any employee, including the executives. [ii]

2. Find and develop true talent that fits the job and culture.   First, find what your people are really good at by way of personality character strengths.  Next, learn what they are intrinsically motivated to do.   When you match inherent strengths with ones’ motivational drivers, performance soars and bad behaviors are minimized.

If organizations commit to ending bad and inappropriate behaviors by leaders, this goal is achievable.


[i] Lencioni, Patrick, The Advantage, Jossey-Boss, San Francisco, 2012., pg. 93-94.

[ii] Ibid, pg. 94