This post is an opinion piece. It strays a bit from the focus of my writing on Leadership is Heart as I don’t usually comment on or share my political views on this blog. Yet, I am a passionate observer and believer in leaders who demonstrate respect, decency, kindness and integrity towards all people and especially their followers. I do not support leaders that demean, bully and disparage people. After viewing and listening to the last two weeks of the public impeachment hearings, I felt called to comment and call out those leaders who attempted to bully integrity-filled and influential leaders and who are doing damage to what authentic and effective leadership is all about.
This week I observed with trepidation how some political “leaders” attempted to denigrate and destroy the character of two authentic and honest leaders. When President Trump’s band of followers on the House Intelligence Committee, attacked both Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former National Security Council Foreign Affairs specialist Fiona Hill, it became clear to me who the bonafide leaders are. Both Hill and Yovanovitch stood firm and responded with patience and truth to the questions and comments directed their way. Their resolute character was in contrast to the aggressive and attacking stance of the threatened Republicans whose attempts to disparage the nature of these brilliant women was unacceptable and shameful. Thankfully, as it turns out, their efforts miserably failed.
In my estimation, both women demonstrated what Jim Collins in Good to Great called Level 5 leadership. Level 5 leaders are leaders who are the “best of the best.” Collins describes them as “leaders [who] display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They’re incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.” (Jim Collins, Jim Collins Concepts, Level 5 Leadership).
Under intense pressure, Yovanovitch and Hill consistently delivered the Level 5 leadership characteristics. They both are formidable leaders. They earned respect and admiration of their colleagues as well as the many people viewing during the hearings. Contrast their behaviours with the self-serving, ego-driven and confrontational tone displayed by those who attempted to discredit them.
Three years ago, just before President Trump officially took office, I wrote about my concerns regarding self-serving and antagonistic leadership behaviours.
…. As Friday’s Presidential inauguration takes place, I am saddened about what the installation of this President-Elect will mean for servant leaders and for those aspiring to be servant leaders. Trump is not a selfless servant leader at all. He thrives on seeking the spotlight. Recognition, a colossal ego and popularity make up his DNA. In my opinion, he is a selfish leader who repeatedly places his own needs before others. He tends to say and do what he wants when he wants. And he continues to denigrate and put down others. I am worried that he will harm what I feel is a crucial attribute of effective leaders. That they make caring for, supporting and loving those whom they lead a priority. What I worry about even more is that his election has given permission for current leaders and aspiring leaders to act as he does. That his style of leadership will become commonplace, and the new standard. I sincerely hope that does not come to fruition….
Over the last three years, and especially over what I observed in this past couple of weeks, Trump’s leadership behaviours have set an example that permits others to do as he has modelled. His out-dated and damaging actions, primarily directed against influential women leaders who stand up to him, have sadly become more commonplace. My concerns have come to fruition as we saw Trump’s accomplices model this behaviour during the hearings.
Why did these threatened leaders attack Ms. Yovanovitch and Hill?
Ego-driven leaders like Trump and his followers are afraid. They cannot see themselves as being outdone or topped by anyone. Their fear makes them hang on to an out-dated style of leadership. They attack, mock, disparage, deflect, deny, divert. They see and treat individuals who refuse to buy into their type of leadership as a threat to their power, and their fear of lack of control outweighs any respect and decency. And if confronted or questioned, they push back.
After observing the courage and determination of Yovanovitch and Hill, I have hope, though. Thankfully there are leaders such as these two women who will stand up to distasteful behaviour and not be cowed. These leaders continue to maintain their integrity, dignity and honesty even when attacked. They refuse to be bullied and show resilience and determination in the face of such adversity.
Ms. Yovanovitch and Ms. Hill are such leaders. They are the type of leaders that exemplify the leadership characteristics we should all aspire to display. Not the kind of leadership demonstrated during the impeachment hearings by some members.
Simon Sinek in Leaders Eat Last shares, “Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours and they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.
This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.” (Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last).
Ms. Yovanovitch and Ms. Hill waded into the danger, potentially sacrificing their careers to do what is right and honourable. They are the true leaders that most of us would want to lead our families, workplaces, and communities. Unfortunately, there are a vast number of people who continue to support leaders like Trump and the GOP leaders. Leaders who must “eat first” and don’t feel bad if there is nothing left for others to eat.
Our world is in desperate need of more leaders like Ms. Yovanovitch and Ms. Hill. It is time that we renew our commitment to recognizing, supporting and honouring those who see integrity, authenticity and honesty as required leadership attributes in leaders of all positions. And when we encounter leaders who attack and bully, they need to be called out. Just like Yovanovitch and Hill did when attacked. Two courageous, intelligent and influential leaders, leaders who deserve to be followed. I would follow them, no question.
As many observed, the disrespectful, aggressive and bullying leaders miserably failed. They should be the ones that are fired.