When a culture cares more about optics than reality, when you put too much emphasis on presentation versus performance, when you care more about how you look outside than who you are inside… you’ve entered the surreal world of success theater.
Success theater carries with it the seeds of its own destruction as energy and effort that should go into fixing things instead is squandered on frills and showy gestures designed to distract from underlying fundamentals. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the fall of GE headlined ‘Success Theater’ Masked the Rot at GE, stating that GE’s culture “disdained bad news” and that it’s CEO didn’t like hearing or giving bad news. Sadly, at one time GE was US’s highest valued corporation; more recently their stock FELL in period when S&P 500 rose over 200%.
It takes courage to deliver bad news and it takes equanimity to absorb disappointing, even distressing, information and to keep your focus forward and solution-oriented, to stay cool, calm and collected. As an investor and senior leader of an organization, I know how challenging it is to avoid displays of dismay or frustration when receiving bad news. Even when an emotional reaction is generalized i.e. not directed at the bearer of bad tidings, it is still not an experience that anyone anticipates with joy! I’ve often reflected on the need to up my EQ and display a calmer composure (emotional labor!) in order to ensure that others feel comfortable and at ease bringing me important information, good or not so good.
“When we demand our leaders to be virtually perfect, we in effect require they lie to us in order to meet an impossible standard; often one we ourselves could not meet if we were truly honest with ourselves. Best we simply allow others to be human and applaud sincere, authentic efforts at redemption, renewal, and growth.” – NSC
Potemkin Village: any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that a situation is better than it really is. The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built solely to impress Empress Catherine II by her former lover Grigory Potemkin during her journey to Crimea in 1787.
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier