March 2012: Beware of suck-ups and yes-men.

It’s human nature to gravitate to people who support, encourage and agree with us.  But this can be a fatal leadership mistake. 

Suck-ups always tell us that we’re right.  They make us feel smart.  They make us feel safe.  We trust them.

Not so fast. When we get indiscriminate praise from those around us, it signals that we’re either discouraging honest, candid feedback, or that people are attempting to manipulate us by coddling favor and winning our trust.  Either way, we end up with a distorted view of reality.

Part of being an authentic leader is recognizing that we have blind spots, and then seeking – and accepting – critical feedback from trusted advisors to ensure we keep a balanced perspective.   Sometimes the most loyal colleagues are those who are courageous and caring enough to tell it to us straight.  To tell us when we’ve stepped in it; to advise that a mid-course correction may be necessary.  And, yes, to tell us when we’ve done a good job.

Today, ask yourself….are you surrounded by suck-ups?  If so, what’s that telling you?