Executive Leadership: Don’t Always Believe Stories of Redemption


Executive Leadership

Don’t Always Believe Stories of Redemption

Sometimes, skepticism is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, At VIM Executive Coaching in Denver, we have certainly encountered our fair share of executive leaders who have boasted that they are changed men and women. They admit they made some mistakes in the past, but they realized what they were doing wrong, and completely changed their mindset. 

But what changed?

I well remember a seemingly silly story, that takes on troubling dimensions. Two individuals from a large organization independently decided to seek executive leadership business coaching. One executive was a “C-level” executive who was prodded by the CEO to get (as he then put it) a leadership tune-up. The other executive was a mid-level manager who had some problems in the organization.

While we would never reveal any confidentialities, let’s simply say that the C-level executive came into the office with a rather arrogant attitude. He protested his need for executive leadership coaching. He said that when he was younger and more brash, he may have “crossed the line” here and there, but he was under stress at the time; that in the years since, he was a changed person. He stated he became a lovable teddy-bear, a much more feely-touchy sort. He boasted: “I’m a redeemed person!” With that, he made it clear he was not thrilled to be wasting time “examining his feelings,” as he put it.

When someone comes to our Denver office at VIM Executive Coaching rather resistant to deeper exploration and self-examination, he or she is not all that easy to coach. There is no room, you see, to fill a full cup!

The mid-level manager was a delightful woman who came to us really wanting to improve upon her skills and to solve some workplace problems. She described an insufferable executive who was essentially disliked by everyone in her department. He was described as reactive, not responsive; angry not kind or compassionate; inauthentic and impossible to please. You probably know where we are going with this, it was the same C-level executive.

While we must realize that there are always differing points of view and perspectives, what was striking to us was when we started working with both clients (independently and with utmost confidentiality, of course), the C-level executive was resistant to any coaching and the mid-level executive was focused and intent on becoming a better executive.

If attitudes and resistance in business coaching was any indication (and it typically is), the C-level executive had not changed at all. His perception of redemption was not founded on reality and certainly not in authenticity.

Redemption requires authenticity

Authenticity, knowing who you are, being true to yourself and knowing your emotions, comes after mindfulness, of being the same person in all situations. For example, if an executive needs to intervene in an employee disagreement, if she or he is authentic, there won’t be the need to think back to “how did I respond then?” Authenticity goes directly to an awareness of being aware.

In our example, the C-level executive was not aware and was not authentic so much as insufferable and dictatorial. In time, his company would terminate his employment. The suggested “tune-up,” was indeed a not so subtle directive from the CEO that he learns how to manage people in a way consistent with the values of the company.

Unfortunately, the mid-level manager left the company about six months after our business coaching. She could no longer work for the C-level executive who, by the way, terminated business coaching after only two sessions. However, I was pleased to learn she has done extraordinarily well in the new situation and not only does she devote a “few minutes” each day to mindfulness meditation, but she is always cognizant of being as authentic as possible.

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