May 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Two weeks ago, I was at Brussels Airport, waiting to board a plane home. In front of me stood a small group of business people, a mix of English, Americans and Belgians. They were talking in astonishingly loud voices about a deal they were planning. They talked over each other constantly, vying with each other to make a smart remark, shout something about their experience, play a game of one-upmanship. Two of them only engaged with the others when it was their turn to speak. When their colleagues were talking, they studied their cellphones intently.
The conversation suggested that they were all very senior people in their organisations. They were, frankly, appalling. They took themselves immensely seriously. They lacked common courtesy in conversation. They talked without listening. Their conversations were a competition to see who could make the cleverest remark and shout loudest.
I began to think about the poor people who work for them and the role models which they present to younger people in their organisations. They demonstrated how not to communicate, whilst displaying narcissistic self-regard. It’s interesting to hear how often middle-aged business people criticise younger people for their overuse of mobile phones, and their preference for text over conversation. It might be equally interesting to hold up a mirror to this little group and ask them why (if leaders have followers) anyone should ever wish to follow them. What kind of role model are they?
I was thankful, as I boarded the plane, to discover that my seat was as far as it could be from them, yet despite the 20 rows which separated us, I could hear every word of their conversation until their alcohol consumption took its toll, and one by one, they fell asleep.
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