Every time someone with enough rank and a title granting them authority starts to screw up, behave in a foolish or terrible manner, or speak like a fool – we are told that we shouldn’t address the issue because “That wouldn’t be professional.” So, since being professional prevents us from acknowledging there are problems, let’s make a conscious decision to be profoundly un-professional.
What’s at work here is the manifestation of fear. Fear that if I point out there’s an 80,000 pound rhinoceros in the room, someone will make my life difficult, or I’ll lose my job altogether. Which is silly, because the rhinoceros is obvious and it stinks to high heaven.
Yes, everyone – and especially people in high places – should be more open to criticism. They should foster a sense of community and respect and engage those with the courage to step up and speak out. However, that is not terribly likely. No matter how unfortunate, that is the reality. What is needed is for people to stop their professional behavior is some combination of courage, diplomacy and tact.
It’s really easy to blame the guy above you for being a pig-headed idiot. Which only inspires even more animosity and just about guarantees nothing will ever change. It’s a lot harder to to look inward and say, “I don’t know how to influence the pig-headed morons.”
Great leaders, the kind that don’t make you feel uncomfortable for doing the “unprofessional” thing are those who understand the importance of influence – and practice it. If you want to become one of those guys, and not one of the oblivious pig-headed morons, realize that you can’t change the world until you change yourself. If you lack the tenacity or skill to get people to acknowledge the obvious problems, you might as well acknowledge that you’re ignoring your own rhinoceros, too.