Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leaders Get Your Pants Off the Ground

Every once in a while, someone comes out of nowhere and captures our imagination – maybe even inspires us. Last week, it was 62 year old General Larry Platt, appearing on American Idol with his viral hit “Pants on the ground”. Thanks to Sarah for bringing it to my attention.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look. Warning: once you hear this song, you’ll be hooked!

As leaders, what does it mean to have your “pants on the ground”? What are those punk-like behaviors that could cause a leader to look like a fool, and eventually fail?

I’ll draw from the work of the Center for Creative Leadership’s research on executive derailers, Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, and my own experience and submit the following:

Top 5 deadly sins for leaders:

1. Arrogance and insensitivity to others
Whether it’s yelling, screaming, and berating, or a more subtle approach to letting everyone else don’t they don’t matter, everybody can’t stand an arrogant jerk.

2. Not listening
Not listening is another way of displaying arrogance and insensitivity, even if you don’t mean to be.

3. Manipulative
Getting things done by manipulating people shows a lack of authenticity and keeps people guessing what your true intentions are. It fosters a lack of trust.

4. Lack of integrity
Lying, cheating, fibbing, blaming others for your mistakes – it only takes one mistake to ruin a reputation for life.

5. Selfishness
A “me first” approach, inability to collaborate or build a team, and unwillingness to collaborate.

If you’ve ever been told you display any of these traits, then do yourself and everyone around you a big favor – get some help!

Unfortunately, a lot very “successful” managers shrewdly use these very same characteristics to their advantage. You can achieve short-tem success by lying, cheating, and abusing your power. However, at some point, it’s going to catch up to you. In the meantime, you’ll end up “lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground”.

Great Leadership Pants on the Ground Remix:

Pants on the ground
Pants on the ground
Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground

With your air-o-gance,
wax in yo ears,
pullin those strings,
cheatin, lying, and lookin out for you

Pants hit the ground
Call yourself a cool cat
Lookin’ like a fool
Walkin’ downtown with your pants on the ground

Get it up, hey!
Get your pants off the ground
Lookin’ like a fool
Walkin’ talkin’ with your pants on the ground.

Get it up, hey!
Get your pants off the ground
Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground

You should be glad I don’t do videos, or you’d have to see me singing and break-dancing. Not a pretty sight.

BTW, Larry Platt is no fool. He marched with Martin Luther King when he was a teenager. The Georgia General Assembly proclaimed Sept. 4, 2001, Larry Platt Day in Atlanta, because of "his great energy and commitment to equality and the protection of the innocent and for his outstanding service to the Atlanta community and the citizens of Georgia."

Sounds like leadership to me.


Bret Simmons said...

Thanks for the tip here, Dan! I clicked on your link "I don't do videos" hoping to learn why YOU don't do videos and what did I find? A link to my site! Not sure how to take that, but thanks my friend! :)

Dan McCarthy said...

Brett -
You should take it as nothing but a tribute to THE best leadership video blogger.

Debashish Brahma said...

Hi Dan,
Excellent post, I want to ask you some question on this. I worked in
India with many IT organizations many of them were U.S. MNCs, had many types of bosses, Indian as well as American, Dutch, Englishman, German etc. But in direct sales
when you are driven by numbers, your boss too also driven by numbers, Sales meeting every Saturday was like boiler room.
Our HR Dept did lot of Psychometric test (FIROBI/Thomas) for the juniors and the boss, but were of no use.

Please look this video,very very interesting you will find it very informative too about Corporate American Culture.

I’m a great believer of McGregor’s Y Theory, and in the long run it works wonders, but short term many boss (particularly in sales) uses X Theory,(as in the above video).
results are high, but again the attrition rates are equally high.

Even in many private Indian banking/insurance firms which are number driven use this technique and the attrition rates are as high as 56% and having NPA of nearly 5-6%+, which by Indian standard is very high.

The Sales persons out of fear/greed start committing more to the customers.
More discounts, more favorable terms which ultimately affected the bottom lines.

Many guys who are tyrants(as in the video) can rise very fast in the corporate ladder.

I think they can do excellent balancing act in life.

With Warm Regards

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

Can't find your email so I am leaving a comment here. My site has included you in our 200 Best Business Resources of 2009.

The list is hosted at

Keep up the good work Dan!

Thanks, email me back with any questions.

Kyle Dunning

Dan McCarthy said...

Deb -
Wow, I have not seen that clip in a long time. It's sad, and unfornunately, can be real in many environments where there is pressure to produce numbers.
I wish you all the best.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kyle -
Thanks for including me on your list.

Vivian Wong said...

Awesome post Dan! I bet I can beat you at the "World's worst singing and break-dancing" contest ;). I have just finished reading a great book called "Leadership and Self Deception" by The Arbinger Institute that could help leaders stay away from your list of sins. The book is simple and yet powerful in transforming my view both as a person and as a leader. (This book isn't about "how" to lead, but it looks at how our views of others can impact how we act and how we lead.)

Happy new year and I look forward to reading more of your wonderful blogs!


Dan McCarthy said...

Vivian -
Thanks for the book reccommendation - happy new year to you as well!

Brandon Jones said...

Dan, I agree with you on your "Top 5 deadly sins for leaders". Once a leader loses the trust and confidence of their subordinates they become ineffective. Sometimes they are able to lead for a time by cheating, lying, or even creating fear in their subordinates, but eventually it will catch up with the leader and they will begin to fail.

Dan McCarthy said...

Brandon -
Thanks, I'm convinced it does.

Kristin said...


Congratulations on having this post selected to be part of February's Carnival of Trust, hosted this month by Bret L. Simmons!

The Carnival of Trust is a monthly compilation of the best blog posts dealing with the subject of trust in business, politics and society. Your post brings about an interesting comment on what leadership really is (as well as shows us a fun and unique perspective...especially knowing that Mr Platt is so involved in community, etc).

Congratulations again. To see the rest of the Carnival, please go to: