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Turkeys and leaders, the surprising kinship

Francie Dalton
Francie Dalton, CMC, is president of Dalton Alliances, Inc., a Maryland-based business consultancy specializing in the communication, management, and behavioral sciences.

As a leader, Thanksgiving prompts me to reflect on the birds who will soon grace our table. Indeed, I've realized a certain kinship between being a leader and being a turkey.

Like turkeys, we don't actually do much most of the year. Being in a leadership role means we don't really have jobs of our own. We just collect the work of every one else and then take credit for it. It's a leadership perk.

Of course, we have to make it appear as if we're always working -- even turkeys peck around their pens and fluff their feathers. All we have to do as leaders to divert the focus from our lack of productivity is to incite the difficult behavior of others. Because our subordinates make sure we know everything that's wrong with everyone else, we have a vast amount of information at our fingertips. In the hands of a master leader, employees can be set against each other with the merest innuendo. It's another perk of being in a leadership role -- kinda like being the director of your very own reality TV show.

Yet another leadership perk is mentoring, one that reminds me of how turkeys like to peck one another on the back. A personal best was when I allowed my subordinate the privilege of testifying before Congress in my place on an incendiary issue. I knew it would be a great learning opportunity for him. And it was. In one afternoon, he got to make the opposition's case and experience the high of being mobbed by the press. True, it was a bit unfortunate that it turned out to be hostile press, but the post-mentoring meds seem to be working, and we expect him to come out from under his desk any day now.

A particularly memorable mentoring moment was when I decided to let one of my staff deliver the largest segment of our formal board presentation. Bless her heart, she worked on it for weeks, rehearsing almost daily. The night before the board meeting, I got a brilliant idea for how to reformat the whole presentation. She almost passed out when I told her she'd have to change everything. "No need to worry," I told her. "I'll coach you from the back of the room by making hand gestures and mouthing words." I still can't understand why she did so poorly that day. My pantomiming was utterly explicit.

When you think about it, we deserve these perks; it's not easy being a turkey. We're the ones who have to sit through all those high-level governance meetings. Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to create loopholes within seemingly iron-clad policies? It requires a whole group of us working for days to ensure we preserve whim as a right of leadership.

Another reason we deserve perks is because of all the tough decisions we have to make. It's exhausting! You have to put your feet up on the credenza and stare out the window until you can state the fundamental issue without looking at your notes. About half a day usually does it. Then you can get back to fluffing your feathers.

Now here's a little secret for those of you who aren't yet leaders: Don't believe for a minute that we want you to stop having those meltdowns. We may act like we're exasperated with you, but those entertaining antics of yours are the very essence of stimulating dinner conversation. They keep the barnyard interesting.

And tomorrow as you dig into the bird that has been taken by surprise, plucked naked, seared, smeared, roasted, carved up, ground up, and picked clean, just ask yourself: Is there a really difference between being a leader and being a turkey?

By Francie Dalton

 |  November 25, 2009; 6:30 AM ET |  Category:  Humor Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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For the clueless readers who missed the humor in this, it is a form of writing known as satire in the tradition of Mark Twain. This was very pointed satire as well. Great column!

Posted by: doom_of_cthulhu | November 25, 2009 12:35 PM

“taken by surprise, plucked naked, seared, smeared, roasted, carved up, ground up, and picked clean” - IED forensic evidence

Posted by: therapy | November 25, 2009 12:12 PM

What a stupid column. She calls herself a management consultant? What sane business would consult with her?? What benefit can her firm possibly offer to others if she is the CEO? And to think that good male-run firms are encouraged and even required to conduct business with such an idiot solely because she is a woman. With millions of 20- and 30-something women swooning over "New Moon", I no longer expect any better from them.

Posted by: fudador | November 25, 2009 9:49 AM

Bravo! Best piece on the Post today by far.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 25, 2009 9:30 AM



I as a kid worked on a turkey farm, it was a great experience taught me a lot about work values. The turkey is one dumb bird, always trying to make its life difficult, they have a group mentality and panic easierly. The head turkey goes left, they go left too, right and they go right.In a turkey pen there are no corners, all round ones, turkey like to squash themself in a corner. The biggest turkeys are simply used to increase the ammount of turkeys. The turkey should be the symbol of washington, and wall street.The two are like the dumb stupid birds I took care off. worthless until a certain time of the year. The farmer was right, you will see a lot of turkeys in your life, and they wont be on the farm!

Posted by: davidtrottier2002 | November 25, 2009 8:49 AM

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