Credibility can be more important than vision

Managers (especially those educated in the West) often feel the need to provide vision, hope and clarity of direction even in the most turbulent and uncertain waters. The managerial assumption is that people need hope and something to cling to. This managerial assumption has a cultural bias.One part of the cultural bias is that ambiguity needs to be mitigated because it is intolerable. Another part of the cultural bias is that stories should have happy ends, sort of “ all is well that ends well“ as a desired state.

Not all cultures have a need for management to provide this perceived sense of phony hope, especially if the provision of this hope compromises credibility of their manager. For many cultures, it is “ok` to promise blood, sweat, tears, criticism, temporary floundering and worse, as long as the boss is seen as credible,  technically competent, street smart and on top of things. The cultural bias herein is the overriding need for credibility, the willingness to let go of the perceived myth that we control our destiny and the tolerance for ambiguity in a hostile environment.

And thanks to GC for making me think.

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5 thoughts on “Credibility can be more important than vision

  1. I buy this totally. Churchill is probably a political leader that exemplifies this trait best. While being bombed, he did not say; “I promise you peace”, or “It’ill be over soon”, or my vision is “A better world”. He simply said: “We will never surrender”. People knew that meant more bombs…..


  2. Could this be two sides of the same coin? People want something outside themselves to give meaning to their best efforts, whether it’s a creating a happy ending or proving the boss’s credibility. Isn’t credibility another sort of happy ending? If the hope proves phony or if the boss turns out to be incompetent, you end up with jaded, cynical people.

  3. Excellent point. This is possibly linked to the fact that CEOs in the west are now conditioned or trained to think more about share price than the health of their company or its ability to navigate in uncertain conditions. The perception of the net worth of a company is based on image and brand rather than fundamentals; stock market performance outweighs economic performance. A “great leader” is someone who

    Another contributing factor is that increasingly the US inspired cult of celebrity has deformed our perception of professional talent. Happy end story-telling (Hollywood style) is a job requirement for leaders. The other talent, not usually spoken about, is manipulation and political influence. Take the example of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase. He not only hides disaster, but acts so irresponsibly as to aggravate it, manipulates (breaks the law) to protect himself and assure the “success” of his company (through favors and political protection), and is adulated by everyone in the financial sector as “the best of his breed”.

    And of course he doesn’t admit ambiguity. When the profoundly unhealthy state of Morgan Chase was revealed to the public, he reassured the entire world by calling it “a tempest in a teapot”.

    He is a model of the successful manager that others obviously will emulate!

    So, yes, Allon, you’ve hit the nail on the head and there are plenty of examples to prove it.

  4. Sorry about the unfinished sentence. I was interrupted by a phone call! The “leader who…” was meant to continue directly with the type of leader that Jamie Dimon represents.

  5. I think we can’t underestimate the importance of hope. I don’t necessarily think hope means the road is easy or the journey will be successful.

    The Churchill example in my mind is an example of someone who was honest and credible but also provided hope. He let people know he understood things were difficult, that things might get worse before they got better but he rallied a country with his mantra of “we will never give up.”. We all seem to need something or someone to believe in and I think in the absence of hope, fear takes over. I can think of many examples where people were so afraid of layoffs, that layoffs happened that could have been avoided.

    How do we prevent self-fullfilling prophecies or fear from taking hold?

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