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Is it Possible to Lead Without Lies?

These days, plastic has invaded everything in such a way that a few brave – with a lot of suffering, so it is said – presume to live without plastic. They appear on television reports working like fools not to use a single plastic wrap throughout the day. You have to admire their discipline and their fervor. But more what’s more admirable is that they seem to without lies, don’t you think?

I am often surprised at how the amount of plastic wrap I have to remove from any product I purchase to use or eat has increased in the past years, I find that the lies to cover records have also been increasing gradually. Or perhaps they have only been modernized and scaled to a new dimension thanks to technology. Can you lead companies or countries #withoutlies in the era of #fakenews?

Recently a client told me how sick and tired she was having to play the game of photos and events to maintain her reputation as a credible executive and top council member. Fulanita, we will call her, is a woman with a professional career of over thirty years in which she has had to risk everything more than once to maintain her integrity and be faithful to her sense of duty. But for some years she lives divided between what she wants to be and what she has to be. And she is not the only one.

Fulanita escapes to make long trips until the end of the world three times a year. She leaves Madrid every weekend to enjoy the mountains or the beach compulsively like there’s no tomorrow. Her other self fulfills her duties as an executive and council member, Monday to Friday. So far everything sounds normal. The problem is that she often has to bite her tongue in critical meetings for not earning a reputation as a fighter. Or she should sit down to eat, smile and make conversation with other executives or advisors, even when we all know about their nepotisms, their twisted smiles, their abuses of power.

Fulanita tells me that she envies how well another important director moves, who we will call Menganita. Fulanita admires how well Menganita endures upheavals at her own events, like when certain “fluid” moral executives come to steal clients from Menganita’s carefully selected guests. Liars, businessmen who take advantage of situations, whose closest friends usually have that old look of white-collar criminals, and when they shake hands they take one arm and two legs.

I have witnessed Menganita in a row with an executive – full of noble titles, awards from magazines and various business awards – because she was teasing him with that dignified trust of having control of the situation: “because I am worth it ”they say shamelessly all their gestures just like the models of a well-known cosmetics advertisement.

Menganita chooses her battles. The necessary fights that she has entered to defend the truth, transparency, objectivity and justice have been expensive. They have had to pay with forced departures from prestigious positions, or the loss of juicy contracts. Or they have failed to stop publishing a sad review of their great achievements while they take a double-page report in color about how great it is to be a three time winner of the award “Best of all the best” of this magazine or that newspaper. Surely as you read this you remember all the Fulanitas, Menganitas and “fluid” executives – with or without titles – of your last ten years … this is not uncommon, and it is nothing new.

For many this is the price of doing business. It is the price that must be paid to belong to certain groups. It happens not only in elites, but all human groups have their little secrets and hidden exchanges. In all, a hierarchy of power has been set up, and in many, that hierarchy of power has resorted to poorly transparent practices that last for generations.

That is why it is much easier to live without plastics than to live without lies. Those who dare to challenge established orders must face the entire group that protects – and benefits – from the established order. You just have to walk around the Salamanca neighborhood to listen to the Chavista accent in any corner and see how that dirty money infiltrates the real estate economy of one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in Madrid.

But what is the price we pay for letting ourselves get into lies and infect the dirt of others? That price is not so obvious because it is not paid at the moment. We don’t stop earning money or receiving invitations to events immediately. No. We continue to play the game of lies unfolding in two, like Fulanita. We smile for the cover photo while holding the nausea inside. Nausea that grows year after year, looking for sedatives that placate the deep unease of knowing that one is more successful by lying and consenting than by what it really brings: alcohol, anxiolytics, drugs or sex, any compulsion that extinguishes that unpleasant feeling for a little while. Being a gigantic Fake.

Being a Fake also means living constantly with the fear of being discovered. It is a snowball that meets one, and then another, and rolls more and more in a frightful viscosity that shows in various faces and is seen in the look, especially the ones that hide it. It is a road that never ends well. Although one arrives at the grave with such a legacy rotting his soul, the physical and emotional memory that leaves his heirs oozing the same secret guilt. See the number of lavish heirs whose lives have been so spoiled that they have compensated themselves without warning.

Leading without lies is for the brave. It takes a lot of courage to fight the leader “because I am worth it” and lose everything in front of his army of liars and coverts. It takes very, very large hearts to bear the suffering, the misfortunes and the subtle – sometimes voracious! – humiliations that fall to those who question corrupt hierarchies …

And in a world dominated by twitter, Facebook, armies of bots programmed to spread hoaxes, or the new “Deep fakes” (technology capable of imitating the voice and gestures of a public personality in a video saying or doing something unimaginable), living without lies becomes a desperate adventure for sad dreamers or crazy people without dropping dead.

He aquí donde la poesía y los cuentos de héroes de toda la vida atrapan la política de altos vuelos y la élite ejecutiva del IBEX35 o el Forbes500. Donde todos los hombres somos iguales de nuevo. Donde nos definimos por nuestros actos y por nuestras omisiones. Más frente a nosotros mismos que frente a cualquier otro. Y donde todos, más aún los más villanos, admiramos profundamente a quienes se atrevieron a decir o hacer la verdad y sufrir las consecuencias.

This is where poetry and tales of lifelong heroes catch the high flying politicians and the elite IBEX35 executives or the Forbes500. Where all men are equal again. Where we define ourselves by our actions and by our omissions. More in front of ourselves than in front of any other. And where we all, even more so the villains, deeply admire those who dared to tell the truth or live truthfully and suffer the consequences.

For those who have made it this far in this article and have chosen to be heroes, I leave you with this song by the Mexican group Elefantes (“Soy Así”, available on Youtube):

“Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I prefer to be shipwrecked than never to leave the port. And I’m like that, just like you. I want to die trying again. I want to live and never regret it. Never more!”

 


Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of the Club Comprometidos

Are You Captivated by the Leadership in Game of Thrones?

Say no more. As a woman, as a coach, and as a student of leadership, I have always been puzzled by the collective fascination with such a violent series. Beyond the huge investment in historical sets, highly worked aesthetics, original plots and -let’s not be innocent- in-depth and extensive sexual content, its capacity to captivate executives and politicians of high intellectual level is quite ironic.

One aspiring minister even boasts of giving a season of the series to a national leader. Tell me what series you would give and I’ll tell you who you are, right?

The problem with the leadership models of Game of Thrones is their enormous destructiveness. It reduces leadership to its most successful qualities, such as being the best warrior, or having an enviable family reputation and legacy, or simply having the money and resources to win a battle by crushing your poor opponent without enough men, or dragons!

When we identify leadership with triumphalism we end up voting for men – yes, especially men – like Trump, Putin, Berlusconi, Boris Johnson, or Cristina Fernández Kirchner, to name a woman with similar qualities. If you win at all costs, whatever the cost, when we escalate to this, our countries end up in the hands of hyper-alpha males: the bigger the better.

In contrast, StarWars defined other nobler and much broader models of leadership. Yoda, the two-foot teacher with green skin and huge pointed ears, spoke much more as a coach, or spiritual guide, than any of the lying, cheating, and manipulative advisors of Game of Thrones. The aspirations of the protagonists of StarWars were less material and more human … justice, truth, self-questioning, and most interesting to me: the proportional use of “The Force.” The bigger the use, the heavier the fall.

Indeed, Game of Thrones creates heroic and noble of heart characters, and fighters that are brave and nonconformist. The problem is that it then destroys or completely perverts such characters in favor of larger audiences. Tell all the poor parents who named their daughters Daenerys!

In their most simplified version, the eight seasons of Game of Thrones offer us rivalries and endless competitions towards a single material goal: a throne full of knives. Even the vast majority of heroines in the series are essentially alpha males. They rule because they can, not because they deserve it. They take many risks, destroy and kill left and right, and well, I prefer not to enter into their sexual preferences, but those very far from romantic intimacy or vulnerability and unconditional delivery.

The Lives of Natives

Now let’s remember the enduring Star Wars movies, the Jedi and their dedication to the duty of The Force. Its simplicity, its austere attire and the lives of brave natives who do not care about money or power.

«Concentrate on the moment. Feel, do not think, use your instinct» and «Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into The Force», are StarWars phrases honored and remembered by millions of fans, as this Esquire article reminds us. Even the evocative romanticism of «I am a prisoner of the kiss you should never have given me» speaks to us about leaders who love, suffer, become vulnerable, or indulge in a passion that overflows them.

They are leaders who do not fight to win, but instead to serve, improve the lives of their followers, and challenge themselves endlessly. Competition with others serves to demonstrate to yourself what you still have to train more than anything else. This idea of The ​​Force as a superior or intelligent entity that can not be dominated or exploited for one’s own benefit is constantly present. It is something intangible, difficult to perceive, and only within reach of the truly noble of heart.

In Star Wars the women leaders do not sleep with their brother, they do not cheat on their husband, they do not manipulate their daughter savagely, nor do they engage in manipulative and perverse games with envious, twisted nuns. The women of Game of Thrones are the least like real women that I’ve seen in a long time!

In times of war, invasion and conquest, hyper-alpha males are very efficient to maximize objectives. But considering that we are trying to live more peacefully and put less burden on the planet, we should consider leadership models that are more emotional, spiritual, and comfortable with their female side. In the meantime, “may the force be with us!”


 

Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of the Club Comprometidos

Reputation is Built From Within

We have heard over and over again that the best protection against a PR crisis is to have a great reputation and a tightly knit network of support. Those of us who dedicate ourselves to the wonderful world of corporate communication know that getting those two things right requires plenty of time and effort on one hand and robust strategy and planning on the other.

It is, therefore, a long-term task that also requires daily actions. In order to reap the rewards of a solid reputation, it is essential to act in an irreproachable manner with each of the stakeholders, starting with our own employees. To paraphrase the great master of internal communication, Pablo Gonzalo, it is useless to say over and over again that our professionals are the raison d’être of our brand if we do not demonstrate it every day or if we don’t set out to help them become real prescribers to the same vision.

I firmly believe that it is impossible to have a good reputation without employees committed and aligned with the corporate purpose. But this doesn’t always depend their will or interest. In fact, it almost never depends on that. It is a responsibility that corresponds unequivocally to the leadership team of the company or institution. Thus, this challenge should be permanently on top of the top executive’s desk, as well being firmly prioritized by the members of the Board of Directors. For this it is necessary to provide management indicators (the famous KPIs). Therefore, let’s start to measure as soon as possible not only the level of employee engagement through the work climate surveys, but also their level of recommendation (NPS) and their contribution to reputation indicators. Fortunately, there are several proven methodologies which can provide specific diagnostics and strategies for continuous improvement.

These indicators can be grouped and integrated in a scorecard that serves as a roadmap in the decision making process and in the corresponding action plans. In some cases, these plans will require budgeting that should be proportional to the size of the challenge. It will be at that point where we can check on whether there is real commitment to employee satisfaction and the consequent improvement of the brand’s reputation.


 

 José María Palomares
Director of Communication and Institutional Relations at the European University of Madrid and President                         of Multinacionales por Marca España