A Business Ethics professor here in the Atlanta area has me speak to his class once a semester, about a fraudster who was an MBA graduate of the school. I probably have more fun than I should be allowed to have, but that is a story for a different piece, and probably a different medium too.
Anyway, in each of these case study presentations, the class ends up wanting to talk about the personality, traits, and characteristics of a “fraudster.” You know: narcissistic, entitled, arrogant, “smartest people in the room,” greedy, “victimized,” and so on. While I do answer their questions, I sometimes turn the tables and discuss things like: Well, what makes an effective boss, leader, department head, CFO, CEO, partner, etc.? The discussion is many times difficult, pained, down-right awkward—it is as if they know what the “bad guys” are like, but not the leaders who just get things done…the right way.
So I end up explaining the following scenario (and this comes straight from Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. — paraphrased in my words):
When people envision leaders–the “movers in society,” most people go directly to the top of the pyramid, naming Gandhi, a few particular political or government leaders, the better known “movement” heads. Some targeted business names are typically included, along with inventors, religious leaders (Mother Theresa), and so on.
Professor Badarocco of the Harvard Business School, in his book Leading Quietly, begs to differ. His text (and research work, and opinions) presents pervasive evidence that the real “shapers of society” are from a much larger group…in the middle of that pyramid. This bloc includes those everyday managers, bosses, administrators, parents, subject-matter-experts, who: exert everyday efforts to make their companies or organizations better; decide practically and pragmatically; and, who maneuver their own patient actions to shape the right results. The traits of those “quiet leaders” are quite simply:
Badarocco also asserts that this group of decision-makers moves society much more often and farther than those individuals in the “heroic” category, and they do it “day-in and day-out,” without fanfare, publicity and rewards…something to think about.
I have often suspected that there are far more “good guys” than “bad” in American business, in all other organizations, government institutions, agencies, wherever. We just don’t hear about them.
But it appears, at least to Professor Badarocco, that they (we?) are, in fact, very effective.