The UK news was awash last week with contestants for media villain of the week – almost as if there was a competition to outdo one another. And without commenting on any of the specific stories or individuals, the question that came to mind when reading each of the stories was, “who let you get there?”
My genuine belief is that most people aren’t inherently bad, whether in the world of work, politics or sport. In the same way that I believe that most people come to work to do a good job, I don’t think that is any different for those in leadership positions in their respective fields. It is convenient for the media to portray it differently and it often suits the public zeitgeist to have someone to blame. But it strikes me that often the issue is more that people have lost their way, rather than intentionally set out on a particular course.
So why does this happen? Well it might not be the only factor, but there is no doubt that the failure to surround ourselves with people who are willing to speak up when they think we are heading off course and our willingness to listen to them plays a significant contribution. There is a weird dynamic that arises as a result of organisational power, where those around think that their success and progress is based on their ability to tell those in power what they think they want to hear. We all remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes from our childhood and probably laughed at the vanity, the pride and the ultimate stupidity. In our adult lives, do we consider which character we best represent?
Everybody needs at least one compass, the person that holds them true to who they are and what they are trying to achieve. We need someone who has little to lose, or is not afraid of losing what they have and is willing to hold up the mirror, to speak the unspoken truth and to bring us gently back onto course. Not in order to point out our failures, but to make us more successful. And we need to open our arms and our minds to those voices and trust that they want the best for us, no matter how hard the truth.
So my question is, who is your compass?