The seven deadly sins CEOs won’t admit

Chess church 9

For the last year and a half The Financial Times has been asking business leaders a few questions, including, “What are your three worst features?” On the BBC web site in “The seven deadly sins CEOs won’t admit” Lucy Kellaway looks at the findings.

There seems to be a general trait of spinning failings as strengths. Control-freakery can be presented as attention to detail or passion for the core vision; impatience might be justified as sustaining a cutting edge or ensuring you ship on time. You think you’re focused – your team see you as a bully. You know the kind of thing… you’ve probably struggled at some point with this kind of leadership. Perhaps, deep down, you know you’re that leader.

Lucy writes;

“In the past 15 years of studying them, I’ve drawn up a list of the seven most common deadly sins. They are control freaks. They are vain. They are ditherers. They don’t listen. They are bullies. They are afraid of conflict. And they can’t do small talk. I suspect the real problem is they don’t know what their faults are. A decade of psychobabble, coaching and 360-degree feedback has made no difference.”

Ouch. I recognise some of myself in a few of those. But here’s what I think is at the heart of the matter;

“It has not changed the most basic truth – people never speak truth to power.”

Within CYO we’ve had a system for many years where team members have a pastoral mentor from local churches that they meet with once a month. These people are in first or second tier church leadership and have complete permission to speak to any other team member, including me, about any concerns they have. And any team member can speak to any of our trustees if they wish. Of course, as a first recourse we still encourage people to be open with each other, incuding about any behaviours that are challenging. But giving people an alternative safety valve helps them feel safe, and means I can’t hide behind a positive spin on a negative behaviour.

How do you manage your ‘blind side’?

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2 Responses to The seven deadly sins CEOs won’t admit

  1. Tom says:

    Honesty and vulnerability. If people see my vulnerability they know I can be approached because I am willing to show when I am weak.
    I also encourage friends, etc to feel at ease to approach me with their concerns about my behaviour, for instance. My best friend feels absolutely able to pull me aside and share what’s on her mind.
    Openness and honesty bring so much goodness on social and professional circles.
    And having worked with you, Tim, it was wonderful to be part of such a positive work environment.

  2. Tim Abbott says:

    Thanks Tom. Openness and honesty – true strengths.

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