Vanilla. The nothing fancy, can’t tell one brand from the other flavor that is also known as corporate speak. Don’t wrinkle, don’t ruffle, stay on message, get it done, throw a few compliments around, push it out and who knows where the fuck it goes as long as you plastered everyone’s brains with your perfunctory, cover all the bases presentation that will mean absolutely nothing in twenty minutes. Did I leave out your reluctance to even being there? You are probably too self absorbed to notice that we see it too.
You start off with the weather, then the agenda, which is usually the whole meeting with no surprises baked in, (so folks can mentally check out early) what you are supposedly all excited about this quarter and next. Then you proceed into drone mode for two hours of pie charts, financial graphs, product managers, the big fat employee compensation guy, a rehash of the company values and then you start handing out awards to names you have trouble pronouncing, written by their manager who had to pick somebody, that you have never met until you are asked to pose for a photo with them. The award language is so banal and trite it’s laughable and wreaks of discouragement instead of motivation and hope. The pain. I can’t watch!
Sound empty? It is! I’ve seen the best, or worst. The phoniest, most disingenuous, mechanical, speak volumes but say nothing, best in the business morale murderers there are. It is a one sided love affair to be sure. Pure vanilla! Note to Mr. Wonderful: It’s not about you! Oh, you never got that memo?
I used to think this was all you needed, a command of the language, a deferential manner and a straight tie.
The reason I got off on this rant is because most of the work I do involves Big Pharma and Biotech companies. So as you can imagine, you see the usual suspects from time to time making the rounds in leadership positions. Talk about empty suits. I’ve seen them in action and they can take all the oxygen out a room in five minutes. That is, if they dare speak and show their ignorance.
What I don’t know, is how they keep resurfacing in good companies. In promising environments that need and deserve good leadership. I am involved heavily with an organization that usually makes all the right moves. They get it. They understand the value of “family mentality.” On being on a journey or a quest that is bigger than the sum of its parts. This person and me are going to have to bump heads at some point and it will be interesting to watch her in action.
She is pure vanilla. I have never heard her say one inspiring or captivating sentence in her life. She also has a pretty good idea how I feel about her. The days of “My MBA” are over. The escalator to the top is broken. Street smarts, savvy and a genuine sense of caring and compassion will separate the wheat from the chaff. For sure.
You have to be more than vanilla today. You have to be bigger than life. You have to give a shit about everyone from the broom pushers to the board members. You have to remember people’s names, sometimes their personal problems, maybe even their birthdays. Not the ones who will get you somewhere. That’s leadership, if that’s what you’re aspiring to. Ice cream is always nice, but please, skip the vanilla!