Paycheck Leadership: A Heart Attack

Center Stage

[A lonely lit room displays a silent stage]

[The BOOM! of a spot light rings out; the light shines upon the stage, a single podium, and a microphone.]

[Christa walks out onto the stage, just the small clicks of her shoes can be heard; she walks up to the podium]


(Christa taps on the microphone, gently rustles her paper, adjusts microphone, rests elbows on the podium, looks out into the crowd of cardboard cut-out people…. She takes a breath and says…)

“Paycheck Leadership [slight feedback from the mic]: a form of situational leadership whereby the leader provides the minimum effort, and achieves the minimum result, in order to continue earning receiving a paycheck.

Simply put: Paycheck Leadership lacks heart.  Thank you.”

(imaginary applause ensues… Christa waves to the crowd, exits the stage, the room goes dark)

What do you think?  It’s my vision of my one-line play.  It’s also my latest made-up phrase to go alongside of this nice little montage of phrases and words I’ve made up on this blog so far:

And, of course, today I’m about to hypocri-cize (another new word) myself and qualify the word “Leadership” to “rekindle about what the meaning of what leadership should be.”

OK, so now that I’ve shamelessly put my own words to… well… shame I guess, let’s talk turkey about one of the most prevalent types of Leadership out there these days: Paycheck Leadership.


If you research this phrase you won’t find an official definition, though I’m kinda hoping that mine starts to catch on.  No, your research won’t find these two words together unless separated by a common, semi-colon, period, exclamation point, or I suppose a question mark (“Did you get your paycheck? Leadership really messed up this week…”).

Close your eyes and think of two leaders—any two leaders.

Now get curious:

    • Why do they do what they do?
    • What keeps them going?
    • What got them there to begin with?
    • How are they judged?
    • How is it possible that they actually EARN a paycheck?

For decades leadership has been judged on an extreme expectation of head over heart.  You had potential if you could put forth a steely disposition and show a calculating a posture.  That is how you win.  This is still popular.

Show a little heart, shed a tear, lose your poker face, be passionate and you are showing weakness—not courage or an ability to be vulnerable and live by your personal values while still maintaining strength—but out and out weakness.  This no-heart style in the matter of leadership made many people successful, rich, relevant, popular, especially in the 80s.

Oh! and made for a heck of a movie in Oliver Stone’s  Wall Street (1987), too.  But I digress.

“Hey heartless: Your Days are Numbered…”

There are a lot of Paycheck Leaders out there.  Heck, YOU might be a “paycheck leader.”  It is the most extreme version of no-heart leadership out there, and guess what?  It’s not going to continue to work forever.

In most cases, being able to size-up a situation and act on logic for ‘what’s right’ instead of acting on emotions for ‘what’s fair” is the most critical aspect of leadership.  Meanwhile, you cannot effectively lead based on your values, principles, and virtues if you don’t have a deep connection with how you feel about things and what you’re willing to stand up for.

The best leaders are those who understand, practice, and know how to balance logic and emotions so as to get the best out of their people.  That balance, or at least striving for that balance whether you’re “too logical” or “too emotional” is what establishes the HEART of leadership.

With Paycheck Leadership, there isn’t ANY heart in the matter anymore.  It’s just about a paycheck.

Not long ago, EVERYONE made a big deal about John Boehner crying as he stepped up to accept his role as our new Speaker of the House.  In fact, it seems that our new speaker tends to be on the moppy side of the dryer sheets when it comes to some cascading eye-diamonds.  (As an aside, this is the same emotional leader who yelled “Hell No” during President Obama’s speech in what seems like ages ago.)

Remaining Authentic

While it’s obviously important to be able to control your emotions and act appropriately (preferably without an “H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS” slang word screamed out during a speech… you know, so as to set the example for all the kids watching a Presidential Address [humor, folks, that was humor]), I have to say that it’s somewhat refreshing to see someone so passionate about his role as a leader that he continually chokes up about it.  All that just to collect a paycheck?  I doubt it.

Now, I can’t go too far into the John Beohner example because I’ll start down a winding road of how a girl could never do that and actually get away with it, but my hope is that this might lead to a growing trend of just a little more—NOT A LOT MORE—but just a little more heart when it comes to leadership.

What kind of emotional display do you think is appropriate for leaders?  How has this changed in the last 10 years?  The last 30 years?  Do you think it upsets or hurts a leader’s credibility if he or she shows emotion by choking up (culturally associated with weakness) instead of yelling (culturally associated with strength)?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo, President & Founder,
via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results


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One response to “Paycheck Leadership: A Heart Attack

  1. Pingback: Paycheck Leadership: A Heart Attack | LEADERSHIP WINS·

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