Are Your Leaders Real?


In Act I Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play, Othello, Iago (who aligns himself with the two-faced God, Janus) is the story’s primary agent of change and his actions cause the downfall of the main characters. Without Iago’s scheming, Othello and Desdemona would likely have remained married and Cassio in a respected position of power.  The two-faced God, Janus, is the perfect visual metaphor for Iago, who appears selfless and compassionate but, in truth, is power-hungry, amoral, and without regard for the well-being of others.

We hold our leaders (business, government and religious) to high standards of behaviour, believing that their role is to put the good of the many over those of the few, the good of the stakeholders above their own.  And in many cases, we do hear these ideals repeated in their speeches and writing.

But, as we all know, words are cheap.

It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality.  ~Harold Geneen

The real litmus test for leadership is this:

Do they talk and behave in private (when the crowd isn’t watching) the same as they do in the public, or corporate, spotlight?

Does your organisation have leaders with integrity, or Janus-leaders?

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Are Your Leaders Real?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The only way to judge any leader is through his or her actions and his or her results. Often harsh, but always true. Respectfully, Mike Petrusek.


  2. Raunak says:

    “their role is to put the good of the many over those of the few, the good of the stakeholders above their own”
    John, I think it is unfair to expect this from majority of leaders. Reminds me of this essay on altruism and reasoning behind why humans display altruism and whether there is an evolutionary basis for the same. One of the explanations is “mutualism” which concludes that humans cooperate with one another when they derive benefits from each other.

    While this is true in case of the relationship between our leaders and us, the relationship ceases to be mutually beneficial because while the benefits for us equate with the benefits for the leaders, the downside risk is higher for us. Leaders are not held accountable for their mistakes. The punishments are not severe enough. So when things do not go the way they were intended to, stakeholders lose a lot more. Leaders are practically left unhurt.

    I think this imbalance between reward and punishment needs to be addressed to ensure a sustainable “altruistic” behaviour from our leaders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s