[January 12, 2018] Yesterday I got a text message from a good friend in the U.S. Air Force. He was wondering what my thoughts were regarding Steve Bannon, previous Chief of Staff of President Trump and fired Executive Chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon, along with several other high-profile folks have done a good job of showing us ways to fail as a senior leader.
Good leaders learn from the mistakes of others so they can skillful avoid the same pitfalls and also mentor those junior to them on those same errors. Such acts which can be called “commonsense” because fast learning is a handy tool for becoming better a leadership statecraft.
“It is not the business of generals to shoot one another.” – Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman
Steve Bannon has been accused of various leadership lapses in judgment and some are listed here. A few ways to fail as a leader would fill a book but a few always manage to stand out:
1. Publically questioning your boss while employed in that organization. ‘Nuff said.
2. Letting your position as a staff member (regardless of position) go to your head such as beginning to believe you know better or are in charge.
3. Disparaging your former boss or peers in a public way. It is never a good idea to say things negative about others and do so publically. To lie or distort the truth is in particular problematic as it casts doubt upon you own abilities.
4. Discussing the interworkings of an organization of which you have privileged information. This is especially egregious if the discussion is with a known enemy of the organization. We call this “airing dirty laundry.” General Stanley McChrystal found this out with an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine.
5. Violate a legal non-disclosure agreement. These are common contracts that often legitimately prohibit the disclosure of insider information that could be harmful to an organization or persons in that organization.
6. Claim you are the holder of all truth and righteousness, blame others for your failures, and complain about everything.
7. … and the obligatory comment that it is not good practice to do something illegal, immoral, or unethical. This is why so many men in Hollywood are having serious problems these days.
But above all, being stupid when you should not be – as in an emotional moment overtakes your good sense – will create problems for you the rest of your life. People are not as forgiving as they used to be and social media forever has a record of what you did.
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