Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Ol’ Boys Can Not Lead. Ever.

I can't stand the term good ol' boy. I don't mean the rarely used positive reference to being a southern gentleman; I'm talking about the negative, often exclusive connotation. Think white guys with chauvinist and racist tendencies. When I hear good ol' boys and leadership in the same sentence it makes me want to hurl.

I know what you’re thinking, there is no leadership when the management team is a bunch of good ol' boys, right?

That's right.

Power Does Not Equal Leadership
If you find yourself in an organization that is run by good ol' boys you do have to accept the fact that they hold power, at least for the present time, which can make life feel uncomfortable all the way up to feeling miserable. That power does not equal leadership though. Their behavior is often an abuse of that power, nothing more.

Leadership is About All People
As I continue to learn and grow as a leader (yes, that's supposed to be a lifelong process), I recognize now more than ever how much I appreciate people who are willing to challenge old ideas, push the envelope of what's acceptable, and who are willing to take risks. Usually that does not mean you have a group of like-minded conflict-averse people sitting around a conference room table promulgating the same old spiel.

It means you have created a corporate culture that fosters those challenging behaviors...a culture that fosters diversity as a value, not a regulatory requirement.

How About You
How do you overcome the good ol' boy syndrome in your organization? Do you step up and address that behavior; or, is it a safer play to crawl under your desk and do some "personnel work" as quietly as possible?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

 photo credit


  1. Good perspective, Jay.

  2. I'm reminded of a photo I saw this morning of Mark Zuckerberg (sp?) and his all-white, all-male board of directors.

  3. I think the best path an HR professional can take is to clearly and concisely identify the risks the company assumes (preferably attached to a dollar amount) by allowing these caveman-era behaviors and hope the clue-by-fours will enlighten them. Having walked that road though, I can tell you it's easier (and in some cases safer) to quietly go about your business while looking for a new opportunity. It's very hard, and in some cases impossible to teach those old dogs some new tricks.

    1. This can certainly be a difficult situation to survive in, let alone change. Ultimatley good people either take a chance on making chagnes; or, head for better opportunities. What a shame that it sometimes comes down to these options. You offer good advice on attaching dollars to the risks -> good stuff.