The world is a monarchy, money is the king . . .

‘The world is a monarchy – money is the king – and we all pay deference to it’. Ricardo Semler.

Recently I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast, where Ferriss interviewed Ricardo Semler. In the podcast Semler shared the above quotation.

Semler’s insight coalesced in my mind with ideas from leadership luminary Jeffrey Pfeffer’s article, Why the assholes are winning: Money trumps all  and Pfeffer’s book, Leadership BS.

As well, I’d argue the ‘Money is the King’ mantra is at the core of the sexual assault and harassment expressed by the #MeToo movement, and played a part in the the Australian cricket team’s ball tampering scandal.

In addition, the mantra is ingrained in the executives who appeared before Australia’s Royal Commission into the banking industry. By the way included in this Australian Financial Review article are my views on how to survive a public grilling.

With the ‘Money is the king’ mantra in mind let me share my summary of Pfeffer’s Leadership BS book, that I cover in my University of Sydney workshop, Communication strategies for becoming an inspiring leader.

In particular, I’ve put the following summary under the heading:

‘The Rhetoric – Reality Gap’

There is a gap between what good leadership is – espoused by the plethora of leadership workshops, books, blogs etc, – and how leaders behave in organisations. Despite all the books and workshops, leadership is not improving at the coalface.

In essence, the ‘talk’ doesn’t match the ‘walk’.

The importance of authenticity (unfortunately a word that has become over-used) and caring about your people is discussed frequently in the leadership literature – but in the workplace, there are many leaders who don’t care about their people, and who are inauthentic.

Leaders can be untruthful and can get away with it, because many times their transgressions don’t have negative impacts. They don’t lose their jobs. Sometimes they are promoted.

At times, aggressive leaders earn more money and have more status. Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, said working with Bill Gates was like being in hell.

What is the reason for the Rhetoric- Reality Gap?

Self-interest. Self-interest, is the greatest interest. Many leaders look after themselves – first. (though may declare they put their people, first).

‘Everyone is dishonest and everyone is utterly heartless towards people who are outside the immediate range of their own interest. What is most striking is the way sympathy can be turned on and off like a tap according to political expediency.’ George Orwell

What to do about the Rhetoric – Reality gap?

Don’t make leaders into heroes. They’re human and have the same insecurities a non-leaders.

Never get labelled a ‘good leader’, as this may make you rest on your laurels and coast in your leading.

Be wary of what you’re told in leader workshops, books and blogs – including this blog.

Don’t give automatic trust to a leader. Watch the leader. See if the leader’s actions and behaviours match their words.

Leadership is messy. The best way to behave and make decisions based on the literature, may be unwise at the coalface. American president, Abraham Lincoln ‘broke the law’ to save the union of the United States.

Take care of your interests. If you rely on a leader to look out for you, you will often lose out.

Understand your organisation and its politics. Know what behaviours are rewarded. Know what behaviours are frowned upon. Then, chart the course of how you will navigate and behave at your workplace.

Own the Conversation

I didn’t write this post to depress you about the state of leadership – the ‘Money is the King’ mantra is not going away – but to inspire you to be a force against the mantra. To be a positive force for change in your workplace, whether you have the title of leadership or not.

What’s one action you could take over the next seven days? How could you take the lead and set a better leadership model in your actions, and with your communication to close the Rhetoric – Reality gap?

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