A common thread running through the tens of thousands of emails that landed in Hillary Clinton’s in-box in her time as secretary of state is that aides and assorted advisers believe she is, well, awesome.
With a few exclamation points tacked on.
In notes sent to the private email account Mrs. Clinton used, various advisers routinely heap praise on the person who gave them their jobs or elevated them to her inner circle. Email flattery of this sort is a common tactic in the everyday workplace, but the Clinton emails show how it comes into play at the highest levels of government.
Employees tell Mrs. Clinton she is doing a “spectacular job,” that she has many admirers and that her remarks were “pitch perfect.” They assure her she looks “gorgeous” in photos and commend her clothing choices.
Look, I guess everyone has their own leadership style but from my experience it is a terrible idea to promote this kind of thing in one's organization.
Why? Well, my organization has 350 people in it. We can either think with just one person (me), working to improve our operations, or we can think with 350. Those 349 other people know many of the ways in which we are screwing up and can improve -- the problem is getting them to come forward with those ideas. And getting them to do so is far less likely if we are maintaining some sort of North Korean style personality cult of the CEO.
I have written about this before, but it's why I consider my Ivy League degrees to be a negative in running the company. Many of my employees have only a high school education (at best) and are intimidated in bringing up an idea or telling me I am screwing up because they assume since I have these Ivy League degrees I must be smarter than they are and know what I am doing. But in their particular job, in terms of my knowledge of what they see every day from customers and operationally, I am dumb as a post and completely ignorant.
Anyone who has worked for me for more than a few months can likely quote my favorite line which I use in most of my employee talks -- "If you see something that seems screwed up, don't assume Warren is smarter than you and wants it that way, assume that Warren is screwing up and needs to be told."
Postscript: This sort of flattery also makes me deeply uncomfortable on a personal level, so much so I have a hard time understanding people who revel in it. I once had an employee that could not stop with this sort of personal flattery, and eventually we ended up terminating them. We terminated them for other good reasons, but I must admit to being relieved when they left.