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Why Hypocrisy Is a Major No-No in Leadership

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Great leadership starts in the mirror. If you want to lead others, you’ve got to start by leading yourself.

Last week, I was reminded of this universal truth, and it was kinda embarrassing.

My family interrupt me all the time. Their constant yakking over the top of me (most noticeable at the dinner table) drives me up the wall.

One evening last week, they were on fire with their interrupting. I’d tried to say something for the fourth time to no avail. Enough was enough. I let them know in no uncertain terms that they should cease this interrupting, and pronto.

The very next morning, as the husband and I made the bed, we began a heated debate about whether we should let our teenage son attend some dodgy event that he was dead keen on. And I was winning.

But in the midst of this parental “discussion”, my husband looked at me across the bed, equal parts exasperated and triumphant, and declared,

“You’ve just interrupted me seven times in the last three minutes.”

Oh sh$t.

He was right.

Sheesh.

I was a hypocrite.

Mustering as much grace as I could (which wasn’t much, I admit) I thanked him for pointing this out.

I’m now working hard on letting others finish their sentences without interrupting. I’m also a lot less vocal about my own family’s transgressions in the interrupting department. Or at least until I nail it myself…

In leadership, knowing when you’re being a hypocrite is important. Avoiding it all together is even better. Modelling what you want to see in others is not only the best way to influence them, it’s often the only way.

You can’t demand from your team what you aren’t willing to do yourself. Adopting the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach will erode trust and respect incredibly fast!

Related: 3 Things You Should Never Do as a Leader

With that in mind, here are four ways you can avoid being a hypocrite like me:

  1. Request feedback from others about your strengths and weaknesses. A good level of self-awareness is a cornerstone of skilled leadership. This can be as simple as asking others, “what do you want me to keep doing, stop doing or start doing to make our working relationship better?” And don’t let them say, “Nothing” when it comes to the ‘stop doing’ part.
  2. Criticise others less. If you do offer constructive criticism to a colleague, you may want to share your own journey in overcoming ‘said’ foible too.
  3. Talk openly about the things you’re trying to improve. Exposing your own vulnerabilities can actually build trust and respect with your team and show you’re human and imperfect like them.
  4. Make it easy for others (especially your team) to give you feedback. Giving constructive feedback up the chain is always a little scary, so make it safe. See here for how.

My ego is still recovering from my husband uncovering my blind spot, and the fact he’s taking every opportunity to regale his story to our friends about how he coached his ‘coach wife’ still stings. But I’m super grateful for his feedback.

Where might you be flirting with hypocrisy in your leadership practice?

And how can you practice what you preach just a little more today?

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