A Perfumed Prince(ss)

I was in a meeting a few days ago, when the question came up “What would you do if you were in a position managing others?”.

One of my co-workers piped up “I would lead by example. I’d be right there with them, showing how it’s done.”

I bit the inside of my cheek so hard it bled.

This particular co-worker is NEVER on time, is rarely at her workstation, schmoozes with Top-level management whenever possible, and only does what is convenient or advantageous for being noticed. If something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault.

In military parlance, she “talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk”.

Years ago Colonel David Hackworth used, and may have coined the phrase “Perfumed Prince”.

A summary of Perfumed Princes:

  • They make rousing speeches about the necessity of a certain action or project, but when the actual work needs to be done, they are nowhere to be seen.
  • They are quick to point out others to blame when tasks that are part of their responsibilities go wrong, but if there is a success, they take the credit and act as if they did it all themselves.
  • They are the first to take advantage of any privilege of rank or position of authority that they might hold and they put their own wellbeing above those they lead and sometimes even above the mission of the organization.
  • They know very little about what’s happening in the organization, but if superiors are present they speak with great authority — even if they don’t have a clue about what they are talking about.
  • They get promoted not because of real accomplishments, job expertise, hard work, or leadership, but because of their facility at office politics and appearances

You become a great leader by being a great follower. You do what has to be done, when it has to be done. You accept responsibility, and when you fail, you accept the blame, move on, and try not to make the same mistake twice.