One of the paradoxes of corporate -- or political -- life is that people expect their leaders to be tough but likable. Toughness can be commanding and inspiring, especially if it springs from competency. But even then, if it edges into meanness, likability goes out the window and followers fall by the wayside.
The line between “tough” and “mean” is hair thin.
Many CEOs have crossed it to their great regret, even if their boards never caught on. It’s simply very difficult to manage by fear and greed. At some point, people aren’t willing to pay the price.
Chris Christie has never had a problem being commanding. But he’s often come just to the edge of meanness, sometimes over-hanging it by more than a bit. He usually got away with it because he seemed so likable. In all his bluntness, he said what many of his constituents were thinking, down to the same profane words.
Then the Bridgegate Scandal suggested the governor has an even darker, previously unseen, side.
The jury is still out on his personal involvement in the scandal. If he is proven in any way responsible, his formidable goose is cooked.
Meanwhile, as his recent “Tonight Show” performance demonstrates, the governor is giving a master class on likability. The basic rules:
- Laugh at yourself, not at your problem.
- And allow yourself to be vulnerable.