Am I a Dickhead?

The title may be humorous but the point is to reflect on some questions that might improve leadership. Even if hopefully none of these symptoms applies there is still a challenge to reflect on why there is so much poor leadership around and how we stop these behaviours taking root in those we have a responsibility to develop.


  • I don’t listen or only manage to hear those things I wish to hear.


Generally too busy for the time consuming effort of being present and listening with real attention to what others have to say. Over time build a culture that erodes trust because not listening communicates clearly a lack of respect or interest in others. I attract people who are good game players and who support me by creating an echo chamber for my own thoughts. Inadvertently I’ve established a perfect environment for a toxic culture to take hold.


  • I talk a lot – I have an answer to every problem and an opinion on everything.


As I have a very high opinion of myself my thoughts and ideas I make sure to share them whenever possible. I am right about most things most of the time. This also helps me circumvent the discipline of listening to others because I quickly know what they should do and tell them.


  • I’m precious about my status and privileges.


I am very sensitive to the symbols of my authority and status. I have sound justification for everything that reinforces my separate, special and unique status. My reserved car parking space, corner office, upgraded travel and club memberships are important symbols of the role I fulfil. (I have long ceased to ponder on the effect of the walls these privileges throw up separating me from those I lead)


  • I am intolerant of mistakes, failures and risks.


Anything less than perfect erodes the standard and performance I want. Mistakes and failures are unacceptable because of how they diminish me and how my reputation will be damaged and undermined. I take great care to avoid failures and mistakes by being a careful driver – I avoid risk, wherever and however possible usually by winning the argument over decisions and imposing my will. The trick of a great player in this game is to talk up and act tough, creating a devil may care persona, whilst in reality carefully avoiding real and actual risks. Where things do go wrong I am quick to distance myself and lay blame elsewhere.


  • I don’t make decisions.


This reflects the fear in my heart of hearts that I will make the wrong decision and that things will go wrong. My thinking is constipated as I search for certainty.


  • I spend a lot of time thinking about my career.


I’ve long forgotten the reasons that drew me to this career am focused on winning the game which means getting to the top. My peers are competitors who I must outperform any success they have makes me sick. The wider goals and objectives of the organization and the people in it are all secondary concerns. I am extremely political and always manage my views to pursue my advantage.


Chances are if you read this far, your not a dickhead – congratulations! But I bet you’ve worked for a few and you know plenty more of them. Do everyone a favour and figure out a way to call it out.

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