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The Emperor has no clothes – A tale of courage

A huge part of being a great HR Pro is having leadership courage. In our case, because many of us coach and counsel senior leaders in our organizations, up to and including the CEO level, we are faced with advising our leaders on some very difficult and sensitive situations. As HR Pros, we often need to be the voice of reason in the room and provide that moment of pause and reflective thinking that is required so that the best possible course of action can be derived.

Fear CourageI have been involved with many situations in my career, as I know many of you have, where you are in a room full of organizational leaders and you are discussing how to deal with a challenging and highly sensitive, organizational impacting, situation. THE most senior leader (CEO, President, etc.) begins to outline how “we” are going to deal with the situation. However, his or her plan (well-intended or not) is fraught with holes and negative repercussions that are obvious to everyone in the room…EXCEPT the President! As you look around the room, all the Sr. leadership is sitting there stone-faced, not making eye contact with anyone, but most certainly they not speaking up and disagreeing or providing an alternate perspective to what the President is proposing.

You know in your heart of hearts that the majority of the room has the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomach that you do about the (horrible) plan that is being laid out. Yet, no one says anything. Whether it is through fear, intimidation, or overall trepidation, NO ONE in the room SPEAKS UP to tell the President (Emperor) that he/she has no clothes on. As an HR Pro sitting in that room, what would you do? Would you be the first to put your hand up and point out the flaws? Would you feel confident in stating the obvious (negative) impacts to the President’s plan? Would you do so even knowing that it is highly probable that no one else would say anything? Or, would you do so knowing that the President may respond negatively to you?

That my friends and fellow HR Pros, is leadership courage and it isn’t easy. As mentioned, I have been in that situation many times over my career and it isn’t fun and it sure isn’t easy. But as a profession, we always bemoan how we aren’t viewed as being part of the big team and how we want to be seen as more than tactical paper pushers. Well, here is our chance. The next time we are faced with this situation, let’s make sure we put our hand up and give the entire team pause for thought and oh so tactfully point out that the Emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on. Who is with me? Remember, you are not alone in this…we are all dealing with it. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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