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Drinking the Kool Aid: 10 ways leaders deceive themselves

The summers in California’s Central Valley are hot, hot, hot.

When I was a child growing up there, one of the few things we could do to cool off, besides running through the sprinklers in the front yard (we didn’t have a pool), was for Mom to fix us a big ol’ pitcher of ice cold, sugared up, lemon-lime Kool Aid.

The best on the block as far as I was concerned.

Although my friend Mike thought his mom’s was the best, and my friend Judy thought her mom’s was the best, and…

“We have the best (fill in the blank).”

How many times have I heard this from business leaders, including myself?

Many, many times. Our thirst to be the best is quenched with it over and over again.

One of our recent Take Time to Lead Tips took on “10 ways leaders deceive themselves.”

Any of these sound familiar?

  1. “I know what customers want.” Leaders often think they know what customers want. Actually they don’t. They just know what they want, and they’re usually not even in the target demographic.
  2. “We have the best (fill in the blank).” Technology, marketing, customer service, whatever. Typically self-indulged fantasy, boastfulness, or ego. Drinking that overly-sweetened self-fulfilling Kool Aid.
  3. “It’ll fix itself.” When they don’t want to do something that’s a pain in the neck. Leaders often procrastinate.
  4. “Our customers love us.” Usually a way to keep people from asking questions they don’t want to hear so they don’t have to learn the truth that they don’t want to know.
  5. “My employees are loyal to the company and me.” The meaning of loyalty has changed dramatically. Leaders should be looking for employee engagement and self-responsibility — not loyalty.
  6. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Also known as solving a problem by ignoring it, firing it, or otherwise making believe it doesn’t exist.
  7. “It’s probably for their own good.” Also “they’ll land on their feet.” Usually when they demote or fire somebody, or during a layoff.
  8. “The ends justify the means.” Comforting themselves when they’ve made a mistake that they knew was wrong from the beginning.
  9. “I know what the employees want.” They probably don’t; they’re just afraid to ask or don’t want to know.
  10. “It’s my company.” In small business, this is often true, but for leaders of corporations, it is frequently seen as dishonest. Treating the business as if it is yours from a responsibility point of view is good but trying to convince others that you “own” it is frequently misunderstood.

Are you sure you’re not deceiving yourself in some way?

Instead, be better and brighter. And lighten up on the sugar.


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