Leadership Thought #328 – Power Doesn’t Always Bring Out The Best In People

March 30, 2012

Boss - Kelsey Grammer's Finest Moment?

Sometimes I am a little late to the party, and I only recently discovered the powerful original STARZ TV series “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammar.  It sure is a departure from his typical roles as he plays a brilliant, yet dark and ruthless Mayor of Chicago recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  The power he evokes on the screen is quite remarkable. You get the sense that he started out with the right intentions but then became obsessed with power and position at all costs.  It is hard to identify a protagonist in this show.   The script and acting are a very clever take on what has always happened to leaders throughout history.

After watching the whole first season, several things jumped out at me as someone who studies leadership for a living:

  • Achieving and maintaining power for the sake of power is a slippery slope and leads you to choose actions you wouldn’t ever consider under any other circumstances.
  • Never forget why you are doing what you are doing.  It is easy to get caught up in the process and forget about what inspired you in the first place.
  • Once you compromise your values it becomes much easier to do it repeatedly and the more likely you are to rationalize aberrant behavior.
  • No one should view himself or herself as above reproach or above the law.  People are always watching, waiting, and rooting for you to be caught.
  • You are the sum of your actions and you, and those close to you will eventually have to deal with the consequences of your bad behavior.
  • No one wins if everyone loses; compromise is an integral part of leading people and institutions.
  • If you buy your loyalty, it will be vulnerable to those with deeper pockets.
  • If you lead through fear, most people will be afraid to tell you what you need to hear.
  • How you treat others matters. They will hold onto their resentment for years to come back at you when the timing is right.  Those that feel unfairly treated tend to have a long memory.
  • All careers have their difficulties, and your character is usually forged in the fires of adversity, not when everything is going great.
  • Institutional decay will fester for years but eventually the cracks in the foundation will broaden and deepen to the extent that failure is inevitable.

You will end up emotionally alone and lonely if you just care about yourself and only allow others into your life as they suit that purpose.  Power can be a blessing or a curse for others and you depending upon how you wield it.