How Do You Lead When No One is Looking?

no one looking

There is an old adage that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat people who “don’t matter” and when no one is looking. In other words, you get the real insight into a person’s character by the way they treat people who can’t help them in some way, or when the spotlight is not on.

I am close to an organization led by a relatively new leader, and I have had the pleasure of watching his leadership from up close. On the surface, he appears to be a good leader. His main constituency, his Board, loves him. They see good metrics, and business is good. He knows how to control things and give them the kind of information he knows they need and want.

But when you start to peel back the onion, and look further down in the organization, the perspective starts to change. The immediate next tiers of leadership also seem to be on board with their leader, but some are clearly suspicious. And the rank and file employees become more suspicious the deeper you get into the organization.

And there are a multitude of stories of this leader treating his most junior people quite rudely… Not acknowledging them or even looking at them when they come into his office… Making no attempt to be pleasant or learn anyone’s name… Becoming visibly annoyed when someone comes to his office to provide some service (in other words, do their job.) When the Board is present, it is all smiles and polish. When there is a formal organizational meeting, it is all pomp and circumstance. But when the audience is not “important” to him or when no one “important” is watching, then the real character seems to come out.

So let’s make this relevant for you… How do you treat the people who give you no political benefit? Who are not in a position to give you a raise or a contract? How do you treat a junior member of your organization when no one else is looking? Because whether you realize it or not, that behavior will become known within your organization, and people will see you for what you really are.

The best leaders are authentic and realize that respecting people is a behavior that you never turn off. Be your best self, the best leader you can be.

Good luck and have a great day.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.