At a recent luncheon hosted by a large asset manager for a small group of financial advisors, I was
struck by how one person dominated the
conversation — not in a pleasant way. He
was in an agitated state, denouncing all
past, present and future employees of his
firm. He bragged about how many assets
he had under management and how clients were clamoring to seek his wisdom.
And yet his business and income were
declining because the people he hired
were “incompetent and worthless” (in
his words). Having grown weary of his
rant, I interrupted him to ask whether
his wife was financially sophisticated.
He replied, “No. I make all the decisions in our family.” This line further
endeared him to those in attendance.
I then asked, “If something were to
happen to you (hoping it would happen
soon), would you recommend that your
wife work with someone on your team
to help with the difficult financial choices she would have to make?” He replied,
“Of course not.” In other words, only he
has the required skills and wisdom to
navigate life’s complexities.
Put another way, this leader trusted
no one. Ironically, not even the folks
he — in his infinite wisdom —had selected to be part of his team. He needed the
final say, to be perceived as the expert,
revered as the wise old soul. While this
luncheon guest represents an extreme
case, the hubris he exhibited smelled
more of fear than confidence. His bravado was a shot in the foot rather than
a shot in the arm. No doubt his clients,
employees and service providers are
acutely aware of his core character.
As for his employees, have they just
given up? Do they fear his reactions and
stop trying to stand out? Does express-
ing their views result in conflict with
I am intrigued by how people act in
good times and bad. Does an individual
rise to an occasion or run for cover? Do
they flaunt their successes or do they
minimize the glory of their accomplishments? Do they insist on being part of
every decision when things get tough,
or do they empower and enable those
around them to use their judgement and
insight to produce better outcomes?
We discover what people are made of
when they encounter challenges, uncertainty or loss.
Most decent human beings find braggarts, exaggerators and peacocks insufferable, yet will endure them if their job
or income dictates this pain. Over time,
a negative balance in such a relationship
creates a strong desire to turn the tables
at the first whiff of fear emanating from
the petty tyrant.
Victims of oppressive leadership
either retreat to unproductive and disinterested obeisance or seek to break the
chokehold and move on to more fulfilling relationships.
BEST AND THE WORST
For several decades, I’ve worked with
leaders and luminaries in financial services — both the best and the worst
of our business. There are those who
stepped into the breach when their
company’s founder died suddenly, and
those who gave up their own pay instead
of sacking employees when the financial
markets appeared to be collapsing.
There are also those who blamed
employees for every struggle, and those
who criticized a prospective client’s
judgement when they chose another provider over them. This sort of “leader”
The Smell of Fear
Are you behaving in a way that causes others to question your leadership?
FORMULAS FOR SUCCESS
By Mark Tibergien
I am intrigued by
how people act in
good times and bad.
Do they insist on
being part of every
decision when things
get tough, or do they
empower and enable
those around them to
use their judgement
and insight to produce