Swallow the Leader

By Robert Goldman

September 24, 2020 5 min read

If you've been waiting for a sliver of good news to brighten your day, it's time to reach for your Ray-Bans.

According to a study from Georgia Southern University, the employees most likely to rise to executive positions are charismatic individuals who demonstrate high levels of confidence, intelligence and extroversion.

Wait a minute. That's not good news — not for you, anyway.

I don't mean to suggest that you have zero charisma. Your labradoodle is totally enthralled by you. (If you don't have a labradoodle, get one. Get a sheepadoodle, too! Nothing will make you feel better about yourself than double doodle worship.)

As for your level of confidence, that's so low a slug couldn't slither under it. Your extroversion? That's difficult to assess since you've spent most of your work life hiding under your desk.

Your intelligence could be impressive in some organizations, though you may have to wait many moons until you find a job suitable to your brain power. Too bad you didn't get that gig as Kourtney Kardashian's yogurt taster. It would have been perfect for you.

Putting it all together, it would seem that, in the real world, you are doomed to forever inhabit the lower rungs of the organizational chart. Luckily, we now live and work in the remote world, where all the characteristics that have "long propelled ambitious workers into the executive suite are not enough online, because they simply don't translate into virtual leadership."

Or so I learned from "The Surprising Traits of Good Remote Leaders," a recent post by Arianne Cohen on BBC.

It makes sense. What good is being a glad-hander if you can't shake hands? How much career traction can you gain as a brown-noser when your nose is hidden behind an N95 mask? Where are the promotions for kiss-ups if kisses ... well, you get the idea.

Analyzing our new virtual work world, the Georgia Southern study reveals that leaders are no longer chosen for "the same confident, magnetic, smart-seeming extroverted traits." This is likely to "provide validation — and even relief — to the legions of hard workers who have, for generations, watched charming colleagues rise to the top."

Bottom line: You don't have to be charismatic or charming. All you have to be is dependable.

And you can do dependable! Ever since you started the long slog we laughingly call your career, people have depended on you to do as little as possible and to take as long as possible to do it. As history shows, you've never disappointed them.

Naturally, your virtual co-workers will be clamoring to make you their leader. They know you will never demand results or bug them with deadline demands. No way would you ever expect them to do any work. You don't, so why should they?

Being organized is another skill highly valued in the virtual work world. It is a skill you have in abundance. Only by keeping track of what had to be done and who was to do it have you been able to pinpoint unsuspecting co-workers on whom you could blame your blunders.

The final attribute of a good virtual leader could be problematic. You will be expected to be productive. The study showed: "Instead of those with the most dynamic voices in the room, virtual teams informally anoint leaders who actually do the work of getting projects done. ... Finally, doers lead the pack — at least remotely."

There really was no motivation for getting work done back in ancient days, when we all actually worked together in the same place. (For the youngsters among us, it was called an "office," and we used to leave our homes to go there every day. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it really happened, or so I'm told.)

In the real world, if you actually finished a project, you only opened yourself to criticism, which was, in your case, usually public and invariably blistering. In the virtual work world, being productive is not so risky. Your boss may bluster, and your co-workers may grumble, but even the harshest criticism from the biggest, meanest jerks really doesn't come across in a virtual meeting.

Let's face it; showboating managers may want to eviscerate you, but they can't command attention when they're on a computer screen, 2 inches high.

Of course, we dull, plodding and minimally charismatic worker bees must someday leave our remote hidey-holes and go back to that "office" place where, once again, dynamic, charming, magnetic idiots will be in command.

Until then, the world belongs to us.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: phmaxiestevez at Pixabay

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