“Even if the altered contract had been legally enforceable, it is still morally damaged. Morality and law do differ.“
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald “The Great Gatsby”
Well. Sloppiness pollutes everything, but particularly so in business. Suffice it to say, nothing bothers me more than sloppiness in leadership.
Now. Sloppiness can occur in behavior and in thinking AND in morality.
Let’s call that the holy trinity of leadership.
Let’s call it your ‘contract’ to a business, society and your betterment of your employees.
Anyway. Sloppiness matters. It matters because it leaves spaces, some little and some large, in which an organization can slide into some bad behavior or ineffective behavior. And THAT matters because, as Harvard Business Review <who knows more about management than I ever will> once wrote: “The highest measure of leadership is that it creates circumstances under which great things happen without heroics. Much of the art of good management lies in designing systems and incentives in such a way that people naturally do the right things.”
Let me highlight two sloppy features:
- 1. Winging it.
Winging it may be the stupidest thing a business leader could ever do.
In today’s business world instincts appear to have gained exponential value over preparation. And this is stupid too. Preparation is the engine to instincts.
No preparation = no good instincts.
It is a simple formula and one that should be tattooed onto any aspiring business leader. Lack of preparation seems like it creates some obvious challenges, but to the “wingers” out there all they see is how preparation stifles their “in the moment creativity of thinking.”
Lack of preparation can kill you so many ways your head will spin but let me point out two:
- The easy detail which lubricates the moment.
The name of someone. The key component in the production line. A specific date.
These sound like less-than-relevant extraneous details but in the moment they can lubricate the experience so you can slip into a credibility space, a caring space or a critical audience listening space which enables you to get to the larger point. Used well, and not gratuitously, details enable progress. With no details progress is often unsustainable of not completely halted.
Winging it, more often than not, sacrifices details. In other words, you walk into situations without a valuable weapon in order to do battle in that moment.
All problems without context appear to have round holes, therefore, without preparation you are, more likely than not, to offer a round hole thought. I will state the obvious – the business world is not made up of only round holes.
Sloppy preparation more often than not means you lack the greater context from which you can actually offer the truly good & effective leadership thoughts.
Sloppy preparation leads to, well, sloppy thinking which leads to, well, sloppy solutions & behavior.
- 2. Moral boundaries.
I almost called this ‘rules’ but rules, to me, are more the written aspects of business and moral boundaries are more the unwritten norms of good behavior.
This is a different type of sloppy leadership.
It is sloppy because it defers all morality, ethics and soul directional leadership decisions to, uhm, what is legal. As we all know … okay, as most of us know, morality & law can differ. Not surprisingly, in business, I can do the legal thing and, yet, still be doing the wrong thing.
Sloppy leaders have a tendency to absolve themselves of providing an organization with a steady moral compass. They may on occasion make a statement, or a stand, on some aspect of what could be construed as a ‘moral weather vane’ but they will consistently fall back on “it is legal” as their organizational guide to behavior.
I would argue, and will, that this sloppy leadership only makes behavior worse over time. just as lawyers make gobs of money debating law in a court of law an organization can be quite creative with regard to “what is legal” in justifying their behavior – and most times it is creatively bad.
Sloppy leadership far too often leads to sloppy organizational moral behavior.
I focused on those two things for a couple of reasons.
- ‘just enough leadership.’
This isn’t a phrase we use often enough. Far too often we imply leadership is one individual guiding a ship alone at the wheel. The truth is that the most functional companies, and most functional leadership, is inextricably linked to the organization and leaders who get shit done.
While being a leader can have a quasi-isolated feel <because, inevitably, the buck stops there> the most effective leaders are anything but isolated. They are more often like a queen bee in which they are a hub of activity with everyone swirling around.
This image is significantly different than a top-down, office on high, leadership image. Just enough leadership is almost always inherent in an engaged leader who listens instead of dictates. They care more about shit than they can actually cure. All that leads me to say that we don’t need business heroes we need business leaders.
More leaders should remember this.
“Unhappy is the land that has no heroes.
Unhappy the land that needs heroes.”
All of this leads to point out why I am relentless in my criticism of Donald J Trump as a president.
Trump is a sloppy leader
Oh. What a horrible horrible lesson Trump is showcasing for the up and coming generation of leaders. While the fact Trump is an amoral egoist “me – only – matters” human being, which disgusts me, it is his sloppy business leadership which embarrasses me, saddens me, concerns me and … well … just makes me mad.
If anybody embodies, winging it, inability to discern between morality & law <boundaries> and a desire to be “the hero” as a business leader … Trump is it. He stands for everything I, and Harvard Business Review, believe is wrong as a leader. I believe it is imperative for the future soul of the business world that we continue to speak out, loudly, that the way Trump depicts leadership is NOT the way effective leadership is done.
I am not naive. A lot of businesses are led by less-than-stellar leaders. I am often reminded of something a business guy, Peter Lynch, said to prospective business leaders seeking new positions: “go for a business that any idiot can run – because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it.”
Trump is a leadership idiot.
But we do not all have to be leadership idiots.
And we all, certainly, do not have to be sloppy leader and sloppy thinkers.
We don’t all have to be great leaders but we can all not be sloppy leaders. Not being sloppy at least gives you a chance of being a great leader. And it insures your business isn’t sloppy.