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By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
“We Don’t Manage People, We Manage
Behaviors”- Aubrey Daniels
When a leader walks in a room, do we know he or she is a leader,
just by looking at him or her?
Tell-tale traits – Clothing, posture, grooming, gait, eye contact,
handshakes, speech, mannerisms, reputation. All are required prior to the
leader opening up his or her mouth to speak.
Leadership behavior, NOT.
This definition of leadership conjures up an incident, which took
place early in my career. Behavior is indeed the distinguishing character
factor in separating leaders from non-leaders and it brings to mind a project
leader I’ll call Koch Easel.
Koch was in charge of a fairly complex project involving many
people at all levels over three-month period. Koch had serious issues with
taking most suggestions; especially those offered by a woman and in
particular a newly hired woman from a competing company.
Throughout several months of the program’s life, Koch met with
perceived multiple frustrations, and whined and complained incessantly with
each perceived grievance. Near the end of the project, I suggested we stop a
certain process Koch had put in place, as it was causing multiple
repetitive functions in an endless loop. Koch was not receptive to this
suggestion, much to the chagrin of the production team who was slavishly
churning out the work. Finally, I engaged Koch’s superior on the
project, Joe, regarding this issue. Joe immediately recognized
the validity of my recommendation. Joe and I set forth removing the newly
produced material and put a stop to the endless loop process.
Upon discovering this alteration, Koch flew into a frenzy. He
began furiously re-posting the material, and we promptly followed behind
him removing it. Finally, in a rage of defeat, Koch lashed out. He stomped his
feet, and yelled, “I’m sick and tired of this “expletive deleted”.
Joe and I stood there stunned for a few seconds. Then, I decided
to focus on Koch’s last behavior, the cursing. I contained myself as I calmly
said “Koch, that is not acceptable behavior. You’d better calm down and get
your act together.” Koch said nothing, turned on his heels and stomped out
the door, slamming it loudly behind him.
Later in the saga, I wrote Koch’s
functional boss a long note recounting the incident. One day, Koch decided he
needed to apologize in person, and he showed up, somewhat contrite, in my
office with an HR person. I was glad to see HR, because I had purchased a
mini-tape recorder to record the meeting anyway. Just about turning green, Koch
screwed up his courage, and coughed out an apology.
Koch never became a leader, but I
never heard of Koch losing his temper and using foul language in a public forum
again. His behavior has been consistently guarded since that time. I am sure
HR, as well as others have advised Koch to adjust his behavior, because someone
like Koch really can’t be completely overhauled without “going down to the
Recently, I was asked my
thoughts regarding Koch assuming a similar role on a different
program again. I knew Koch’s future hung in the balance, but I also
knew that the company couldn’t take a risk with Koch. As tactfully
as I could, I replied, “Koch struggles with leadership behavior; he
simply does not possess the proper temperament or character to be effective.
The questioner gave me that understated look of acknowledgement and realization
leaders share. He thanked me for my candor, as he clearly understood exactly
the implications of my comments.
Koch Edsel was not a leader.
Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, PCC, SHRM-SCP
O’Sullivan, Master of Science Organizational
Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach
(ICF-PCC), Society of Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional
(SHRM-SCP). Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching,
University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor
Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego
and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist,
Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human
Resource Management from SHRM. Mary is also an ICF certified Appreciative
Inquiry Practitioner, and a Certified EQi-2.0 and EQ360 Practitioner.
Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years’ experience in the
aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change
agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking,
through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth.
In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New
York for secondary education and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area. Today,
Mary dedicates herself to helping good leaders get even better through positive