Don’t judge a book by its cover…

At some stage in our working lives we’ll all have rolled our eyes and wondered how someone in a senior or executive position reached those lofty heights! This often happens if we see or hear behaviours, judgements, and decisions from leaders that seem crass, political, self-centred, and out of alignment with realities seen by the wider workforce. Gossip becomes rife, leaders become disliked and distrusted, and coffee point conversations speculate that leaders’ motives are driven by their own personal rewards.

The Badger has certainly had these thoughts over the years! However, the Badger has learned never to jump to conclusions about a leader, their credentials for their role, or their personal motives until you’ve worked for them directly. Until then they should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, people rise to positions of power in their organisations because they have a hunger to progress their career and do so, and the wherewithal to take the opportunity when it arises. This doesn’t mean they are the most capable people on the planet, and the best leaders know that!

The Badger vividly remembers being appointed into a senior position reporting directly to an executive leader responsible for a number of businesses. The general perception in the workforce at the time was that the executive was an oddball. They chain-smoked, always looked scruffy even when wearing a suit, and looked and spoke like one of Barry Humphries alter egos. The executive was not a good communicator either. Coffee point conversations across the workforce often gravitated to wondering how the individual ever reached the position of running a business, especially when folklore had it that the executive often had one too many drinks at social events, gravy stains down their shirt, and neck ties that appeared to come out of the side of their neck rather than from under their chin!

At first the Badger was cautious. However, it quickly became evident that behind the popular caricature was a highly educated, intelligent person with exceptional business instincts who was great fun to work with. They were dedicated, worked exceptionally hard, and had an absolute passion to do their best for the company, its staff and clients. The Badger quickly realised this was a capable and successful leader who deserved their position; they just needed some better internal marketing!

The Badger learned too that the old saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ applies just as much to people as it does to books! Don’t take things at face value, regardless of widely held perceptions. Form your opinions of those with power based on what you see of the real person and their motives when you engage with them personally. In most cases you’ll wonder less at how they reached such lofty heights. If, however, you see that the cover is the best thing about the book, then roll your eyes with abandon and worry…worry lots!

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