I used to work for the whisky business some years ago. I learned how it is made, stored and matured in precious casks. I met master blenders. To me they were almost like magicians.
That appreciation helped me communicate to my customers how truly good whisky can be and I became an enthusiastic salesman running mini blending competitions. I still believe whisky, especially scotch whisky, along with cognac are the two most sophisticated alcoholic beverages humans can make — or drink.
A few days ago, BBC NEWS revealed that one third of rare scotch whiskies recently tested were found to be fake. What a disgrace! I was outraged. My theory of the noble drink collapsed in a second.
Fake whisky, like fake news, must be really well crafted to be believable. In the past, reading a good article was all about enjoying the experience, thinking and comparing the ideas or impressions to other thoughts or articles. Now it is more weighted towards speed, internet-browsing, information flow, consuming without thinking. Especially with recent technological advancements taking place, speed has become exponentially the driving factor. Content factories, which need new stories every two minutes, inevitably produce garbage and lies. Here is how a fake news producer describes his experiences:
…. I have written completely fabricated experiences of being a medic delivering care in a war zone and the difficulties I’ve encountered as a middle-aged housewife (a piece about the emotional labor of the holidays went down well) and growing up as a Muslim. Media agencies (a bizarre name for them, because they are basically advertising companies) have to churn out so many articles that they need writers who can be all things at all times. The work is presented as journalism, when, in reality, it’s creative writing… (Confessions of a Fake news writer, Winston Wordsworth, Medium)
Fake news stories are the fruits of our era. I associate fake news with other “fakes” including fake managers. These are people who worry less about their people or their outputs and more about how they appear or are seen by those above. I call them “Butt Kissers”. They hurt companies in the long term because they deteriorate the good atmosphere among employees. They also dilute a company’s mission and suffocate its purpose. Here are my thoughts about this type of managers.
……How to recognize Fake Managers
They always, ALWAYS agree with the boss. Sometimes they are trying to build further on the boss’s arguments, frequently in imaginative ways.
Some fake managers I call “echoes”. They practically repeat what the boss has already said with similar words, as if they were an echo.
They usually attempt to be quite social. They spend time on the phone. They frequent in the corridors. But most importantly they stay in close vicinity with the boss. They know his/her patterns and tastes. They know everything about their family, kids, preferences, when and where they ski, or in which beach they enjoy the sun and the sea. And they wait. At times they rent a flat close to the summer house or chalet of the boss. Accidentally. Other times, you can tell who they are when they make favorable comments for the boss in some social space or forum.
Some can be still competent but many more are not.
The ones that exercise extensive butt kissing to continuously please the boss while also being fairly incompetent are what I would call “placebo managers”.
You think you have a manager, but in many ways you really don’t. They are like the medicine you take, expecting to feel better, to no effect.
Obviously, they try to flatter the boss. For almost everything. “What a beautiful speech”, “what a “nice presentation”, “wow you beat this guy with this argument”. These were business related. Then we have butt kissing in the context of their bosses’ skills; “Oh you are so charismatic; your analytical skills are impeccable”.
They are willing to do almost anything within their power to please the boss. From volunteering to take notes, some even become the boss’s PA, bringing coffee and tea.
I once met an executive, lets call him John, who was in a split family situation. Himself in HQ, his family in Athens. It is a common practice that you go back visit your family every now and then, let’s say every other weekend. John was systematically skipping to go back home. Why was that? He was counting on the likelihood that the boss would need him to return immediately after a text or a phone call!!
Some are even doing physical work like carrying the boss’s briefcase. I am not kidding.
A special case of butt kissers are the ones who tend to be two-faced. When they conjugate with their boss/bosses they are humble, they speak less (of course), and they even use a calm and unpretentious tone. When they are outside the boss-zone and when it comes to interacting with subordinates or clients, they can be bad tempered and abusive, and even what you would consider snakes. (read more about this character on HBR, How to Handle a Colleague Who’s a Jerk When the Boss Isn’t Around, by Amy Jen Su)
I had an example of someone classified in this category who, during her new big promotion, kind of a position in the Leadership Team, her boss kept referring to her “humility”. Everyone laughed at this because everybody (but the boss) knew her true self.
In corporate environments, all butt kisser categories need one or more sponsors in order to eventually survive. After many years, I tend to believe that everybody likes nice words, flattering, servicing, and perceived “loyalty”. The problem, however, is that very few people like the person carrying-out these tasks. They look at them with a sense of inferiority. That’s why they need more than one sponsor. It also covers the possibility of one sponsor’s retirement or dismissal.
Here are two useful guides on narcissists and manipulators. Also a fantastic resource The A**hole Survival Guide by Stanford professor Robert Sutton (a person I truly admire) ….
A year has completed its mission, and the new one has somehow started.
I wish you to be more truthful, open, honest, genuine, sincere human beings,
True Scotch Whisky Drinkers
and yes, True Authentic Leaders.
PS: This piece is an opportunity to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the outstanding teams, crews, co-drivers and colleagues we “raced” together through the years. Without you guys, the journey in businesses and life would not be the same.
Photo credit: Lee NYC1