Shortly before the British General Election, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was filmed in conversation with 65-year-old Gillian Duffy who expressed concern about the number of foreign workers entering the UK. Brown remained calm and polite throughout, complimented Duffy and her family, finished with “Very nice to meet you,” then jumped in his car to be whisked off to the next photo-opp.
And that’s when he utterly destroyed his already-fading chances of re-election.
Because, forgetting that he was still wearing a microphone from a previous Sky News interview, he complained to an aide about having had to speak to such “a bigoted woman.” Sky News recorded the comments and promptly broadcast them. No amount of apologies or spin could rescue the situation for Brown. His ashen face spelled “political death.”
Reflecting on this, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, at the Harvard Business Review, urges leaders to “act as if the audio is always on…There is no ‘off’ switch for leaders.” She concludes:
Leaders are wise to behave with a consciousness of how other people might view what they do — and the awareness that people probably will view it. That requires truly authentic leaders whose characters are not mental constructions faked for the job but run deeply in their hearts and souls. In the age of social media, instant video feeds via cell phones, and hidden surveillance cameras, this advice about authenticity increasingly applies to everyone who aspires to leadership.Fellow pastors and elders, read these challenging words again:
That requires truly authentic leaders whose characters are not mental constructions faked for the job but run deeply in their hearts and souls.And let’s look and aim even higher than the earth-bound and man-centered focus of business leaders and politicians. Because the audio (and video) channels of our lives are feeding into heaven 24/7/365.
Thursday, May 13, 2010