Recently I saw the following post on a social media site: “Would you rather be a good man or a good CEO?”. There were many comments that followed. Some of which picked a side and others claimed one could be both. The author meant for it to be controversial, otherwise it would not get much attention on social media. If I absolutely had to choose I would pick being a good person, but I believe the choice is not necessary.
Let’s make the term interchangeable with Leader. Would you rather be a good person, or a good leader? The question is based on the premise that being a good leader would make one not a good person and vice versa. While there are examples of bad people that were great leaders, my belief is that the question is extremely ignorant and short sided. It also likely came from someone that was exposed to someone that was in a leadership position who was a bad person, or from someone that felt personally wronged by a decision made by someone that was in a leadership position.
Leaders are responsible for the organization and all stakeholders (team members, customers, investors, etc.). Therefore, it is a tough job that requires vision, treating others fairly, decisive action, and being proactive before many others recognize a need to change. It also means making decisions that may be unpopular to some, but still in the best interest of the organization and the collective whole. The unpopular decisions are likely where one could be labeled as a “bad person”, and my belief is that while those unpopular decisions may negatively affect some in the short-term, that the failure to make them would negatively affect all in the long-term. Either way, it does not make someone a bad person just because they are taking their leadership responsibilities seriously.
A bad person is a bad person and a bad leader is a bad leader. The reality is that any combination of good/bad people/leaders can exist – so it is a choice. However, you do not have to choose to be a bad person in order to be a good leader.