Leadership means there is no place to hide. A CEO—or governor, owner or boss–can never hide behind the people he or she stands in front of.
So New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a huge leap forward at his press conference today when he denied knowledge of, but ultimately took responsibility for, the developing scandal known as “Bridgegate”, in which the duplicitous actions of top Christie aides raised concerns of integrity, morality and honesty.
Even if his claims of ignorance are to be believed, misgivings regarding Christie’s management style and his competency will continue to linger. Is this the man New Jerseyans want leading their state or Americans leading their country? (A nod to rumors of the governor’s presidential aspirations.)
In his press conference, Governor Christie admitted that he is “soul searching” to determine why his staff felt the need to lie to him. Previously the governor had been accused of an intimidating type of management style, but today claimed, “I am not a bully.”
Good leaders set systems in place so that there are never any surprises within the organization, a set of checks and balances that empowers everyone in the organization to be a whistle blower. Once an entitled clique is allowed to evolve, the scandals, blunders and cover-ups emerge.
Strong leaders (and, in turn, exceptional managers) establish a moral compass for their people to pursue in the course of their work and provide the motivation to exceed established goals. If a manager is not proud of the way their people ‘take the hill’ or unconfident in their ability to get the job done, then he or she has to look in the virtual mirror and come to the realization (perhaps grudgingly) that he or she is not as good a leader as can be. All of the education and experience in the world is not enough to make a great manager. It is also essential to develop and live by a personal philosophy of managing.
Which begs the question of how was this egregious act able to come to fruition right under the governor’s nose? Christie has a reputation of being blunt, brazen and short tempered. However, it is not unusual–in fact it is commonplace–for even the most seemingly confident managers to get wishy-washy, unable to make the tough calls, control the agenda or make decisions. Why? Because they look for black and white circumstances when the fact is we are knee deep in the grey area 99 percent of the time. In this real world zone, there is no right or wrong answer, simply a best fusion of upside potential and downside protection. But when the need to be sure gets too powerful, paralysis starts in and the team feels rudderless forcing them to act as silos, renegades. Is this what was happening behind the doors of Drumthwacket (the official residence of the governor of New Jersey)?
In times of crisis, the best course of action is to ‘declare war’ on one’s self. It’s time to stop believing the pabulum “good management” and start breaking through to the true drivers of growth. Growth in one’s career. Growth in one’s company. Growth in one’s life. To salvage his political career, Governor Christie must allow himself to think how he can raise the bar on his own personal performance. He must be prepared to Declare War on everything he does that is fine, good and mediocre. Because unless it’s great, it sucks.