1/10/14

Chris Christie, Bully and Buck Passer . . .

As a man who proudly claims politics (the art, sport, science, and strategy) as his first love and PR and messaging (the art, sport, science and strategy) as his second love . . . yeah, yeah, yeah, kid, crayon, G-d, and hummus are in the mix too - chill out . . . I am OBSESSED with this whole Chris Christie/Fort Lee/George Washington Bridge scandal.

FORGET that Chris Christie is the Governor of one of the more populated and complicated states in the union. Forget that to survive in New Jersey politics is a well-known nightmare. Forget that he has obvious Presidential ambitions (that he pushes back at his every chance). Forget that people are obsessed with his weight, demeanor, leadership on Hurricane Sandy recovery, and his general circle of friends. Forget that he is under the hot, hot lights of national media scrutiny right now for something that - let's be clear - he probably did NOT have a personal hand in orchestrating or executing. Forget all that - all I'm going to ask you to do is focus on decisions and behavior.

I'm a man, son, father, brother, uncle, friend, colleague, and acquaintance to many people. All of them know me to varying degrees and all of them (dis)like me to varying degrees. I'm fine with this. I am actually happy about this. I like that almost every person I interact with has a varying impression of who or how I am. It means I'm not a slice of white bread with room temperature butter atop me. It also means that my personality and demeanor are consistent . . . how does that work? Pretty simple - if everyone likes you it is because, by intention or coincidence, you are boring and vanilla. I'm sorry . . . it is true. Some of my favorite people in this world are as bland as bland can be. And that is wonderful because the world needs that . . . we crave that . . . we only actually get stuff done because of that.

The rest of us - the outliers (as Malcolm Gladwell grouped a number of very successful people - I am not putting myself in their camp . . . yet) - are beholden to friends, family, colleagues, dumb luck, circumstance, and a lot of stick-to-it-ness to get anything done in this world. Chris Christie, dear friends, is an OUTLIER in the all capital letters sense of the word.

He gives exactly zero yawns of what the average person thinks of him. He gives maybe one or two dramatic pauses to what his own inner-circle (family, advisers, etc.) want him to say and do. He clearly wants the people of New Jersey (who re-elected him in an honest to goodness landslide just a few months ago) to respect him. He would like the delegates of the Electoral College to reward him for being himself in a few years. He has a LOT of work to do in the meantime.

What work? In my never humble opinion (and I should clarify here that Chris Christie's politics make me crazy but his personality, 99% of the time, makes me giddy with delight - he is not, in any way, an expected politician in the year 2014) . . . understanding the difference between personality and demeanor and the difference between leadership and power.

Personality, for me, is how you carry yourself - smiling, laughing, and having fun or dour, despondent, and looking for pity. Demeanor, by contrast, is how you apply your personality to other people. An example: I have a lot more patience for my seven-year-old daughter than I do my 23-year-old colleague. I am the same person to both of them (when I'm happy with the kid I may shower her with hugs, kisses, pet names, and offers to stay up late, eat dinner in front of the TV, or go have an adventure - when I'm happy with my colleague I lay a few pet names in and encourage her to go home early on a Friday afternoon).

Power is the authority you have. To carry through the above analogy I am a father so that gives me nearly infinite power (at least until my kid becomes a teen (heyyyyyo)) but in the office, even as a direct supervisor, I can't make my colleague do anything, I can't force her to come in early or stay late, I can't change her personality or her demeanor. Leadership is what you DO with the power. I want my child to see me as a good example of what a man might be. I want her to see my strengths and weaknesses in the proper context and I want her to know her worth because I treat her with great value. My underling needs only respect my professional abilities and intentions. I want her to want to learn, improve, take on responsibilities, and grow to a point where she's ready for another challenge.

Chris Christie has poor a great personality but poor demeanor. He is a bully. He is a buck passer. He is a "woe is me" man (he actually wanted us to believe HE is the victim in this whole bridge thing because those he trusted betrayed him) despite being the Governor of the Great (?) State of New Jersey. He has great power and he wants much, much more (and - for the record - he showed great power by firing people, getting others to resign, and impeding the professional growth of those former advisers in the process) but he is not a leader. Not yet - but there is time.

Stay YOU, Chris Christie. Just start treating those who expect great things in return for the great opportunities they have afforded you better. Better leadership and a more responsible demeanor.