November 20, 2013
Because I Can by Jerry Murray
Over the past few weeks, several international news sources reported various ways the U.S. government has used its intelligence strength to probe for sensitive information. I had a lively conversation with friends imagining what information our intelligence agencies collect and, in particular, why they collect it. One of the most thought provoking yet simple answers my friends came up with on why our agencies tap into so many sources of information was this: Because they can. They have the technology and resources to gather information – why not just do it? I am confident that our government uses a more complicated decision-making model than we imagined, but it was an interesting thought to consider, nonetheless.
Because I can creates a choice for every leader or person in a position of authority or power. Government leaders, CEOs, Controllers, Executive Directors, Production Managers, Teachers, Parents – name any position that commands power, perceived or otherwise, and with it usually comes choices that will impact those who depend on that leadership. Sometimes leaders are tempted to inappropriately use authority just because he or she can:
- To withhold rewards earned by subordinates… because they can.
- To ask for something at 4pm that could have been requested at 8am… because they can.
- To cancel a meeting at the last minute, or not to honor time commitments… because they can.
- To berate an employee inappropriately and not apologize or set the record straight when they realize they are wrong… because they can.
- To make decisions without communicating them to key team members… because they can.
Unfortunately, this list can go on and on. Reasons vary, but the frequency is much greater than any of us care to admit.
Erwin McManus once said that power doesn’t corrupt an individual, it merely exposes his/her true self. Leaders who regularly spend time developing their “true self” are less likely to fall for the temptation to abuse their authority. Rather, strong character will win the day and reflect well on the leader, benefitting his/her team members and the organization as a whole. Leaders who invest time to develop their character will be ready to:
- Say thank you and look for opportunities to show appreciation… because they can.
- Honor their commitments, including meeting times and expectations… because they can.
- Give voice to others in the organization where they work, even if they have opposing viewpoints… because they can.
- Directly address accountability issues with team members rather than delivering relational consequences… because they can.
You can use your strong voice and decision-making ability to build up and engage those around you. Take time to invest in your leadership character. You and the people that depend on you will be glad you did.