Lies, Hides and Fakes of Leadership; and The Game of Finite vs. Infinite.

Lies Hides Fakes of Leadership

Lies, Hides and Fakes of Leadership; I saw a similar title on an article and thought to myself; self, how appropriate is this title in today’s world of leadership. We are seeing such a vast array of leaders up and coming today and many simply are faking it until they hope to make it. But who’s fault is that really?

What is your goal as the leader of your organization? Not the organization’s goals or mission but yours…the leader? What goal or goals do you have for yourself?

Most will repeat all or some part of their organization’s mission/vision statement about what it is the “company” does. You are telling me what your organization does or its mission to do…. Not what you do. What is YOUR priority in the organization?

I can tell you as a plank owner of the second largest department in the U.S. Government, I’ve been here since the inception and I’ve seen behind the Wizard’s curtain in DC…. Many organizations are filled with Lies, Hides and Fakes, does anyone know what I’m meaning when I say “Lies, Hides and Fakes?”

It’s people that are managers instead of leaders. It’s senior level “Leaders”, Directors and such, that may have been fantastic journey level employees, but were never taught how to become a leader. So, they play the “Lies, Hides, Fakes” manner of leadership today.


The first one; Lies; many get really good at lying about what they have done, what they are doing, or what they plan to do next, they are perpetually coming up with great ideas, but never finishing them. They are fantastic at starting something and then pushing it off to a junior person to “finish up.” In other words, they are lying everyday about their real ability to be a leader in your organization. Anyone know someone like that?


Secondly, Hides; Oh we all know this guy or gal. He/she never seems to be around when the bill comes due. He never seems to be in the office to sign the end of year financial close out. Never seems to be able to go to a decision meeting or whatever requires critical decisions at the most crucial time…always hiding when things get tough. Maybe this is the leader that says they are “mentoring” another leader so he wants to give them the opportunity to take on this project…. Or they are never seen by the troops on the line working side by side with them…the leader that leads by email…the leader that stays in the office and says there is no money for travel, no time to get in the field.


Finally, the Fake; Unfortunately, I think many organizations have far too many of these folks and I think the leadership training programs have allowed this to happen. Fake means you are faking any understanding of the organization, the problem at hand, the job duties, the mission requirement….anything to do with what you are there to do.

I say the leadership training programs itself has some culpability in this because qualified leaders, good people, once they get anointed with that magic fairy dust are able and capable to lead any job in any field, in any organization at any time. Really? Who ever thought that was a good idea?

Now don’t get me wrong, well rounded leaders are a better able to serve in most cases, but serve in the positions they are most qualified for, the careers they have spent a lifetime learning to do. Now remember I’m just talking about our leadership programs here. I do think there are some organizations where there are some slight differences but many similarities. When the CEO of Best Buy takes the job as the CEO of Target or the COO of General Motors becomes the COO of…you name it.

Those large corporations are about producing or procuring their widget(s) and selling them to a market…. It’s about organizational norms, it’s about the stock holders, boards of directors and company profit. Much easier to cross walk skill sets. Not all leadership positions allow this cross walk.

Finite vs. Infinite

Now let’s talk about the games. There are two types of games people play. Finite and Infinite. A finite game is one that is made up of a finite number of people or players, a finite goal in mind, and a finite time to play or end to the game, football for example. There are finite number of players, playing for a finite amount of time, with the goal of having or scoring more points than the opponent. We don’t get to the end of the game and say “oh let’s play 5 more minutes, I’m sure we can catch up” no; when the game is over, the game is over.

Everyone understands a finite game. An infinite game is a game played where there is no finite goal to win it, there is not a finite number of players that come and go, are added and dropped as the game goes on and the only purpose to be in this game is to outlast, outlive and outdo everyone until everyone else drops out.

Say the Cold-War. This was an infinite game being played by several countries, in several places with no real clear winner to be declared. Some countries fell away, while others joined the game…. Russians vs Afghanistan, the Russians were there to “Win” while the Afghans were there to survive. The U.S. in Vietnam; we were there to “Win” and the Vietnamese were there to survive in their homeland.

What Is The Difference?

All well and good, just so you know there is a difference, because when you have two people or two companies that are finite players playing a game, they are fighting for or competing for a goal, for a win and the time is limited. If one company is looking to beat the other company in sales, in product manufacturing, in new ideas, new widgets. That is their focus.

When you have two infinite players or companies in a game, they are trying to outlast the other. That is what happens in most corporations today, they try to simply outlast their competition until they either file for bankruptcy or merge with another company simply to survive in the game. Look around, how many of those actions have you seen in the last 10 years?

Microsoft for a long time was very interested in “out-geeking” Apple in every category. The best phone, the best music device. They were constantly looking for ways to be better than Apple. On the other hand, Apple was ONLY looking how they could best serve teachers and students with products to make their lives better. So one company was looking to beat the other company (finite) and one company was looking to just be in the game and outlast the competition with superior ongoing products.

Who Remembers The Zune!

Who in here still listens to a Zune? What is Zune you ask? Well that should be proof enough that the Microsoft answer to the Apple Ipod was a fantastic device when it came out, but it never improved, it never evolved, it played the finite game, the game was over, they won, for a minute, but they were playing a competitor that was playing an infinite game. Two very different games.

We could make the same comparison with Blackberry and Apple Iphones. Who still has a Blackberry? Who used to have one? Again, Blackberry was playing a finite game and Apple was playing an infinite game. They again outlasted and continued to improve until they ran the competition into the ground of irrelevancy. Once your product becomes irrelevant to the world, so does your company.

What Game Are You Playing?

As leaders today, in this organization, do you know what game you are even playing? Are you playing a game to simply win over the competitor or are you playing an everlasting game just hoping to survive and outlast the opponent?

For many organizations it’s probably more along the infinite game plan, as your mission though different and specific probably has one common goal, so definitely in the infinite mode of play, as we have to as they say on a favorite TV reality show; Outwit, Outplay, Outlast our enemies (other companies.) Then it’s a matter of our long-term survival so many of us will fall away, others will join the game and it will go on for some time.

But as leaders it is imperative that we know what game we are in fact playing in our organization. Some of you may have come from organizations that have been a part of a very powerful finite game being played in order to “beat” someone else.

Let’s say now that a player that is playing or is used to playing a finite game is suddenly up against someone playing in an infinite game? One wants so badly just to win, while the other is holding on for the long haul, because the long haul means we just hope to outlast the opponent. Will the finite player ever be able to win this game? No, probably not, not unless he or she changes the game in which they are playing in their head.

Invest In Your Leaders Training

As we bring on new supervisors into our work place; great technicians, fantastic accountants, awesome police officers, whatever it is your organization does. We promote someone to be a supervisor and then what do we do with them? Monday, they come in and now instead of being one of the team members, they are now put in charge of the team. Responsible for the team. Learning to lead is very much like any skill set in the world. It can be learned, it must be learned, and it must be practiced and continued or it will die.  Training for your leaders is a consumable product and you need to keep pace with their skills. can be your resource.

Think of your parenting skill set. Most everyone CAN be a parent, but not everyone will or should be a parent. Some lack the drive and initiative, the basic skills and have no desire to learn them, that is ok! Those that do, do, and being a parent like being a new supervisor takes new skill sets, new patience, new thought processes. As parents, we learn them from our own parents and grandparents normally. In the work place if we are learning them simply by watching those above us, much like our parent modeling, it is one way, but it simply may not be the best way to learn these skills.


We have to invest in our newly promoted supervisors. They are being asked to do a different job on Monday than they had on Friday. They are being asked to be responsible for real people now, not just the widget or the product or service we are here to produce. Being responsible for real people, their successes and their failures is a whole new ball game. These skills need to be taught from the ground up. They must be renewed, continued, expanded upon and never let to stagnate. What worked 5 years ago, isn’t going to work today.

Lies, Hides and Fakes

So first you must understand what you are really doing inside your organization. Are you falling prey to one of the three biggies: Lies, Hides and Fakes? Remember this is not a self-licking ice cream cone. Just because you believe you’re the greatest leader since Abraham Lincoln, doesn’t mean your perception is the truth. If we took a poll of your subordinate employees right now, marched them in here and asked them if you are leading or are you in one of the Lies, Hides, or Fakes categories, what would they say? Gut check I know. Think about it.

Secondly; are you playing a finite game like football? One that has a finite number of players, a finite definition of when someone has won and someone has lost? Or are you playing in a game that has an undetermined amount of players, with no real winning or losing in the general definition and the only purpose is to outplay, outwit, outlast everyone else? Either game might be ok to be in, but don’t be a finite player in an infinite game…. You will never win and the game will eat you up.   The Accountability Cop can get you there.