People Filters (TURNED OFF) and Deceptive Leadership

As a Community Manager I manage nothing.   I think the title is wrong actually, I should be called “Community Motivator” or “Community Influencer” or something else but manager is not what I am or what I do.   I listen to stakeholder problems most of the time and unless asked at this point I work hard to refrain from providing solutions.

I have discovered that as organizations have become more horizontal (FLAT) that people individually think of themselves as being smarter than others.   Being smart is one thing, but there is a dangerous trend that I am observing (not scientifically).  There are two areas that I am specifically addressing today.  The first is “the Facebook effect” which I mean that people are losing their ability to filter their thoughts when communicating over technical mediums. We can see this everywhere, reality television, news, in the office, with our children etc.  We are becoming a “say anything world” which is harmful.  This last week a few middle school children said horrible and disgusting things to a bus monitor.   This unfiltered behavior is not being addressed or brought to light enough in my opinion.   There are business effects as well.   One of the issues or trends is trickle down deceptive leadership.  As organizations are becoming flatter and more money and power is filtered to middle management, people are empire building at a higher frequency, but since it is distributed it looks more like this:

A common conversation would go something like:

Dave: Have you heard about x,y,z? Can I talk to you about x?

Robert: No, but I know all about that.  I read something on Google about that once.

Dave: oh, ok.

Robert: I have made a decision and we are going to do something.

Dave: What are we going to do?

Robert: We are going to do things and then other things, and once we do that and we become popular for the things that I just thought of we are going to do other things.

Dave: What other things?

Robert: I don’t know yet but I will be sure to let you know when I think of them, oh by the way I don’t like you because you are not my friend so I am going to have to let you go next week.

These are real conversations.  If you have experienced them or spoken to the Dave’s of the world you understand.   As people are becoming more and more connected through technology, they are becoming more and more disconnected socially through real life and real world interactions.   Their filters are turned off and they are becoming drunk with power.   Dave never had a chance, and maybe he has a family and maybe he cares about Robert’s success.  Dave will have to figure out what is next for himself.

But it is worse than that, Robert didn’t care and didn’t have any sense of guilt or sorrow.  The reason he didn’t care was because of the (WIFM) or what’s in it for me?  What Robert has today is some money and some ability to execute (a little power).  He doesn’t have enough for him to believe that he can control all of the people in his organization, but he has enough for him to believe that he can change the world with his ideas.  Did you get that?   He can’t influence the people who know him, but he can influence people who don’t. Through technical exchange like email, blogs, and social mediums.   Most of the people who actually know him don’t respect him.  He doesn’t listen and he doesn’t lead.  He just knows what he knows and that knowledge or his answers are the end of all discussions.    Over the years I have seen a trend of deceptive leadership.   I would say deceptive leadership is when someone pretends they are a leader but they truly make no effort to lead or follow for that matter.  They play a part and slink through an organization while stabbing people in the back, making back office drug deals while betraying people who trusted them.    Deceptive leaders destroy organizations like a cancer from the inside out because the people who work for them become victims.  Ironically, unless they do something really noticeably wrong the people who they work for become victims as well.

I think, I want, I need, I, I ,I , me, me, me.    They are so smart that they wind up focusing on the wrong problems precisely (see type 4 error)

I am writing this because I believe it needs to be said.   I am writing this because I believe this to be true.  I see it more often now than I have ever seen it in my career. These days I am in touch with a lot of people and this appears to be a trend(not scientifically proven) but through casual observation and various discussions.

I started discussing this with my uncle Mark Friedman who is a well-known Organizational and Industrial Psychologist.  Mark also blogs at   Through my life and my career I have had the benefit and opportunity to talk about my experiences with Mark.  We always have interesting and productive discussions.   Recently we started talking about this trend of disconnected behavior and accountability.  One of the critical concerns is that organizations don’t invest enough in understanding the relationships between staff.   When dealing with people issues even though there is a cost with losing people or in a lack of productivity, there is no directly correlated line item number in a budget.  This lack of accountability is very costly but since there is no direct relationship with the budget it simply winds up costing the organization in the bottom line.   People are our most valuable resource but realistically these least accounted for.   As a matter of fact people don’t depreciate in value over time, they accrue value.  The organizational knowledge they gain will make a great difference to business operations.   Social networking and collaboration is now identified as one of the fastest growing and most profitable areas in business, yet we are leaning on technologies to make this happen and not looking at people and understanding relationships.    This makes it easy for the Robert types of the world to devalue and dispose of the Dave’s.

I believe this is a cascading socio-economic challenge that WE need to talk about and we need to start thinking of people oriented solutions as opposed to technical solutions to this seriously costly and harmful wave of behavior.