Kim Obbink and I co-wrote a book published in 2018, “How NOT to Be a Leader.” We just finished the 3-book series including, “How NOT to Build a Great Team” and “How NOT to Create a Winning Strategy,” which will be out in late spring or early summer of 2020.
We thought it was a good idea to create a new chapter for our first book given the current situation. The concept for this book series is sharing tongue-in-cheek leadership lessons. Look to the bottom of each chapter for what we really think. In this unprecedented time, it’s good to smile, even for just a few minutes. We hope this will help you do that.
Rules for Leaders During a Pandemic
(taken from scribblings and scratchings of Great and Bigly Leaders)
Rule #1 – DENY, DENY, DENY
The first thing you have to realize is that YOU create the narrative, don’t let it be created for you, create it yourself! In the face of overwhelming evidence that this might be a big deal, call it fake news. Remember, you’re in charge so whatever you say is the truth until you decide it isn’t. That’s when you deny you ever said anything of the sort. Works every time. Bald-faced lying will never be questioned by a powerful leader so use it.
Rule #2 – Ignore the Eggheads
OK, let’s be clear, you’re in charge, not all the experts. Yeah, yeah, they have opinions, but we all know what those are worth, everyone has one. You are the elected or anointed leader, not them, so what you say goes, not their supposed expertise. Trust your gut instinct, even if you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, pretend you do. It’s important not to give up your leadership cred to the elites and intellectuals.
Rule #3 – Find a Scapegoat
Remember, this could go south so you want some plausibility in denying you are in charge or that you made a bad decision. So, step back and find your biggest sycophant to be the head douche or spokesperson in case you have to blame someone. However, never stop taking credit for anything that goes well, after all, you’re the leader, right?
Rule #4 – Prevent Accurate Data at all Costs
If there is something that might out your position as wrong, such as testing, make sure you do everything to throw a spanner in that crankshaft so the numbers never show up against you. As the leader, be sure only those things that support your position are deemed credible and if something like testing or numbers might debunk your narrative, avoid them at all costs. You’re in charge, make it happen.
Rule # 5 – Surround Yourself with Idiots
Much like the scapegoat, you’ve got to have people around you that are dumber than you – which is easy as it’s almost everyone. This way they won’t question you and they’ll constantly tell you how great and smart you are and you need that boost in the face of a crisis. Be sure to fire anyone who gets too uppity and questions you. They have to go immediately.
Rule #6 – Do a 180 When All of the above Fail
As with most things, your position needs to be fluid when it looks like all the evidence is turning against your position. Get in front of it and act like you’re taking charge and that this was your plan all along. Use rule #1 (Deny) and rule #3 (Blame and Scapegoat) to get yourself out of it. Never, ever admit you were wrong, that is the kiss of death. Blame any of your previous statements on the idiots who work for you, the media, or your scapegoat. It’s important to get back in front, take credit for anything that is going well and blame everything else on anyone else but you.
Let’s Get Real
This is NOT how a leader handles a crisis. Do the opposite of every one of these rules. Leaders should defer to the experts. No one can be an expert at everything. Good leadership means surrounding yourself with the best and brightest, not your relatives, the dumbest, or the most sycophantic.
Be real in your communication. If you don’t know something, say so. Explain how you will find out. Empathize with your followers. Try to understand what they might be going through. Show some humanity that you understand their struggles. It’s not just about the money, it’s about people’s livelihoods.
Ask people to join you in solutions. Don’t act as if you alone know it all. You don’t. People are so willing to band together and help, let them. Solutions come from the most surprising places.
Own your responsibility – as the leader, the buck stops with you and you alone. Trust is built from knowing that you have someone’s back, not that you are crawling over it to get out of the crisis.
Communicate frequently, even it’s bad news. Let the experts explain things but let people know that you’ve got this, for better or for worse.
Leaders who manage the crisis well for their people and their organizations will be remembered as great leaders, those who don’t will be forgotten or worse, held up as what NOT to do.