It’s no wonder comedians love politicians.
Over the past few weeks, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blew up two families and whatever was left of his acting career; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie repaid the treasury for two state police helicopter trips to see his son play baseball; and congressman Anthony Weiner of New York is involved in a controversy over a message from his twitter account that was below the belt, leading to headlines that you can easily imagine if you haven’t seen them already.
These political events bring home something that’s true in the business world, as well:
Your personal behavior has a major impact on your professional image and reputation.
We seem to hold leaders to higher standards, and we’re also mystified at how people with so much to lose don’t do a better job of checking their impulses.
Many business leaders don’t realize – until it’s too late – that the line between personal and professional is blurry. As well, you tend to become more involved in events, organizations and even pastimes where people are watching you more closely because of your professional role. There may be no better example of this than the golf course, where friendships and business relationships blend and blur, can strengthen or dissolve.
Leaders often assume that only their “inner circle” knows about behavior that, in reality, has zoomed through the company grapevine. The people in that inner circle are usually (and understandably) reluctant to confront a boss or peer with the negative impact on their reputation and the business. No one wants to tell the emperor he has no clothes.
At a deeper level, leaders behaving badly often seek, subconsciously, to be “found out.” Many feel guilt at some level for excessive drinking, an extra-marital affair, a gambling problem or something else, and will act out until they get “caught.” It’s one way of resolving the guilt and ending a situation that is causing internal conflict.
The silver lining is that because the personal behavior of leaders is scrutinized, you have more power than you may realize to impact people in positive and profound ways.
Sharing your personally-held values can create stronger bonds with others. Explaining how those values impact the decisions you make can radically increase rapport, trust and comfort, and those stronger relationships can create synergies beyond what you may have realized was possible. It can change an entire organization.
Even describing challenges you’ve faced – whether you overcame them or not – can give others a sense of how you walk the talk in your personal and professional life. People remember those stories and use them as models for themselves.
Additionally, I’ve seen many examples of the philanthropic endeavors of a business leader inspiring the staff to engage in charitable work. The result is lifting up potentially thousands of other people and connecting employees and their families in profound ways.
If you have a specific example of personal behavior positively impacting you or others, I’d love to hear about it. Others would, too, so when you send those to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, please let me know if I have your permission to write about in future blog posts or newsletters.
In the mean time, go do something great today, and have a terrific weekend.
David A. Weiman, Psy.D.
Psychologist and Executive Coach
My leadership blog: http://www.leadershipupdate.blogspot.com