There is a trend in leadership across the world, and I see it every week in my travels. It is a toxic practice that can kill morale, damage credibility with employees and have a negative impact on productivity.

If you don't do anything about it, this one practice could destroy your company.

What is it?

Hypocrisy.

It's a leader who stands in front of a conference room talking about company values like respect and kindness, when everyone knows that same executive screams at employees and calls them names.

It's the leader who makes managers and supervisors go through trainings on motivation and appreciation, yet never shows appreciation to his own team. He might attend a training to introduce the program, and then he leaves the room.

It's the leader who appears in a company video, smiling and talking warmly about how "every employee's contribution matters," but often refuses to even talk to the "little people."

It's the leader who writes in the annual report that team spirit drives the success of the entire organization, even though he has many teams fighting each other within the organization.

All over the country, wherever I'm facilitating a leadership program, there is always one person who asks: "Excuse me, I may be out of line, but come the people that should be in this class aren't here?"

When I ask who they mean, they inevitably say, "our senior leaders."

How do we solve this problem?

Accountability matters.

Board members have to demand that executive leaders act in ways that align with company values. If there is an issue, executives should first be directed to take part in training or executive coaching to correct the inappropriate behavior.

If leaders still can't behave, they should be fired. I wrote about this last month, after Uber took action with leaders who were not behaving appropriately.

The company that takes action should be applauded for doing so, but should also question why such terrible behavior was allowed to continue for so long.

Leaders should be role models.

Companies have to make sure that executive leaders are modeling the behavior they expect from employees. This behavior has to be professional and beyond reproach.

There is no place for a leader who exemplifies "do as I say, not as I do." If leaders don't "walk the talk," employees will think, "I don't know why I should behave a certain way when our executives don't even do it!"

Have one class of employees.

Some companies have an "employee class" of people and an "executive class" of people. It's not said directly, but it is painfully obvious there is one set of rules for employees and a different set for executives.

This destroys trust and morale.

As actor Misha Collins once said, "I actually think that the most efficacious way of making a difference is to lead by example, and doing random acts of kindness is setting a very good example of how to behave in the world."

As a leader, the kindest act is consistency. Anything else is hypocritical.

Published on: Aug 22, 2017