10 Bad, and Intentional, Leadership Behaviors and Decisions That Corrode and Seriously Damage Community Relationships

If you are a senior staffer or a particularly precocious junior staffer reading this, you’ll recognize these negative intentional leadership behaviors and decisions. Like many of you, I’ve been in the room with senior leadership countless times when the most unbelievable and often unrealistic, to say the least, discussions have occurred. Really smart people made decisions they knew were bad but did them anyway, out of frustration, irritation, spite, or getting even.

Why do decisions like this happen so frequently? I think there are five reasons:

  1. The “I’m the smartest guy/gal in the room” syndrome. (Generally from business school grad).
  2. The only things that matter are the things you can actually count (compassion avoidance, insensitivity towards people, victims, injured or abused, living systems, rivers, lakes, forests, and species).
  3. Anything emotional is to be avoided, “I don’t want to look like a sissy to my peers.”
  4. No accommodation of or to negative voices because noticing them and their groups, ideas,  or troublemakers, don’t deserve it.
  5. Intentional disrespect.

The reason I raise these behaviors and decisions in this way is that far too often we find ourselves as chief staff advisors failing to make a potent and powerful case against these behaviors and decisions. But each one of these, if carried out, invariably becomes extraordinarily expensive, reputationally harmful, often requiring long-term rehabilitation with concessions you would never have been forced to make had better decisions been made in the first place, and intentionally bad decisions avoided.  

Here are seven of the most toxic.

Seven Toxic Intentional Leadership Behaviors and Decisions That Are Disabling, Trust Busting, and Damaging to Community Cooperation And Support

  1. Failure to be truthful with communities.
    • This is done more by intentional information omission and outright lying.
  2. Failure to be forthcoming with communities.
    • This is mostly because management feels communities don’t deserve to have all of the information; “they haven’t earned it.” “Don’t know what to do with it.”
  3. Failure to trust communities with sufficient information to decide.
    • “It’s just a handful of angry people, powerless but irritable.” – Famous last words
  4. Failure to be open and engaging with the community.
    • Reflects a fundamental lack of respect for anyone who disagrees, who can’t be fired.
    • “We have been good corporate citizens responding to all requests and rules and therefore have earned a social license to do what we want and get what we want.”
  5. Failure to accept or invite community oversight, regulations, restrictions, and supervision.
    • What… am I crazy? “There are already too many meddlers.” Lexicon of Control
  6. Failure to answer all the questions that are being and will be asked.
    • Management: “You must be kidding. Who’s got the time for all of this? Communities don’t need to know half of the information you’re proposing to give away.”
    • “We will determine what the community needs to know.”
  7. Failure to continuously seek, ask for, and deserve community permission to operate.
    • Management asks, “Isn’t this what the permit process and politics are all about?”
    • Why doesn’t community dissent and controversy end once we get the permit and have answered all the most important political and public questions?

Your Success Manifesto fo Community Trust Building, Permission Enabling, Cooperation Fostering, Public Support Generation

  1. Be truthful with communities.
    • Provide more information than requested.
  2. Be forthcoming with communities.
    • Communities deserve to have all of the information; because they are entitled to get it. The community wants those affected to have the information, all of it.
  3. Trust communities with sufficient information to decide.
    • Make sure angry people, opposing people, and those who need to hear, have the power, to be heard.
  4. Be open and engaging with the community.
    • Reflect, respect, and accommodation to anyone who disagrees. Protect and prevent antagonists and opponents from being retaliated against or fired.
    • Work every day to reestablish the community’s permission for you to do what you need and want, get what you need and when you need and want it.
  5. Accept and invite community oversight, regulations, restrictions, control, and supervision. Lexicon of Control
    • The more control you accept, the more power you have to actually manage your own destiny.
  6. Answer all the questions that are being asked, will be asked, should be asked, and especially questions that you wish they would ask you.
    • Management must make time for this! Stop asking when questions will have to be answered. You stop answering questions when people stop asking them.
    • Only communities know what they need to know. Suggest and provide more.
    • It is the community that decides what the community wants and needs to know. Comply. Better yet, anticipate and provide.
    • The greatest management communication mistake is failure to prepare for, introduce, and effectively answers all the questions you wish would be asked of you.
  7. Continuously seek, ask for, and earn community permission to operate.
    • Be prepared for community dissent and controversy to continue even after you get and meet all the conditions for permits, licenses, and truly answer all of the political and other public questions.
    • Management asks, “When will these angry and destructive people stop going after us and trying to increase restrictions on our operations? Every victory you have infuriates your opponents. The more successful your efforts the tougher the opposition becomes.
    • Start with the knowable, get the getable, do the doable, understand the understandable, keep this positive pressure on, and increase it where you can.

Remember the first of Lukaszewski’s 12 Axioms of Crisis Avoidance/Survival: “Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uninformed or overconfident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates; well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives, or from dysfunction in an organization.”

Boeing, the Poster Child for Intentionally Bad Decision Making

At this writing in mid-2024, the most obvious current example of these corrosive behaviors is, in a single word: Boeing. To put it mildly, this company is in extraordinary turmoil. Its current Chairman is leaving, under duress, and is going to leverage a gigantic payout. The public is losing trust in this company. Doors have blown off Boeing planes in flight.  Boeing continues to fail more rigorous inspections by Federal Safety and Production Agencies.

The company’s overwhelming problems are making it vulnerable to the ever-present international competition.

The weight of all of these problems has slowed Boeing’s deliveries to the lowest point in five years. The company’s continuing history of safety issues spectacularly and fatally demonstrated by the crashes of the two fully loaded Boeing 737 Max plane crashes in Ethiopia and one in the Javis Sea these disasters still haunt the company. The revelations recently that the company has intentionally put delivery, production, and productivity over safety and public confidence. Legal issues are multiplying. A recent survey found that many Americans are willing to pay more to avoid flying on Boeing. Leadership failure has lead most often to devastating degradation of company progress and reputation. There are no more corners to cut.

Another huge embarrassment, on the 30th of May 2024 Boeing’s long awaited and much  troubled manned space vehicle failed to launch being stopped in the last thirty seconds by a computer warning. Since the end of the American Space Program, Elon Musk’s rocket company has launched something like 85% of all American projects being put it into space. 48 hours after the emergency halt of the Boeing space vehicle launch, the company is unable to explain why this occurred. Remember one of my most favorite crisis axioms, bad news always ripens badly, things only get worse before they get better. Boeing’s situation is living proof with this action.  

No one at Boeing has been indited, but investigations are ongoing.

Let’s Find Out Who the Chronically Bad, Poorly Lead, and Intentionally Clumsy Company’s Are.

Question for you. What company’s organizations and business leaders would you include in this list of chronically bad and intentional, willful leaders? Send me your ideas and suggestions about the candidates, company’s, and circumstances in a hundred words or less and we’ll discuss them specifically in an upcoming newsletter or broadcast.

Please use my direct email address (jel@e911.com) to submit your examples.