Leadership by showing off how much you know...

"Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story." 
Max Ehrmann, from Desiderata

Ever come across people who are so articulate that you almost wonder how is it they know so much and are so well versed in the topic or issue at hand. They are able to quote, reference or even provide evidence with such ease.

Well, maybe just maybe it is because these people have picked up a skill that not many of us have mastered.....the skill of copying, editing and improvising.

What do I mean? Well it is simple. Suppose, what they say was something they read from somewhere or heard from someone, is it possible they could have just regurgitated what they picked up but have it modified and spinned such it looks original and true. It is possible right?

There are many such people in our society who have mastered this art so much so they have been so good at it that it almost seems as if the idea, experience or they were the original authors to the stories.

If only intellectual property rights covered this aspect, many people would have gone home bankrupt.

It is not so easy to spot these kind of people especially if you have met them for the first time. They can press the right buttons in front of you such you can be moved as if they are the next best thing on a hot day to shaved ice.

......over my years of working in different roles, I have found people who do this are the ones who sit in positions of perceived power and have no clue of what is happening on the ground but pretend to know. They simply articulate their thoughts as if they were there, as if they had first hand knowledge and with little acknowledgement to those who actually did go through the trauma, torture, suffering or bliss.

These personalities have a great competence to use others sound bites or stories. They must be applauded. I am not so sure if they are generally insecure to share their own personal journey and tribulations. The fact they have a parasitic view to leech on others stories and learnings as if it was theirs baffles me.

Here are some tips I have picked up from my experience of how to spot these kind of people.

1. Relevance - at times you will find the topic for discussion or an intervention have no relevance or just does not seem to register as if it was their own story......when you feel like this, test the story by asking if the person was there or ask for more details and you will find the subject matter will shift away to something else - a smart display of "Tai Chi" by avoiding your question. 

2. Timing - how recent was the episode. In most cases, the person will share something they had just learned or picked up from a cocktail conversation or an article or a story which was related very recently. To find out if the story was recent, you can spot it in the context of how the person delivers their story, was it timed based and was it referenced to something that had happened recently....

3. Manner of presentation - in most cases the way the subject was presented would be to show the person had significant business intelligence or is aware of the trends and the pulse on the ground...it is a way to show that the person knows more than others...check it out using the internet or asking a friend who you know may be able to vouch for the information.

4. Reliability - almost most of the time these kind of personalities will state their sources of information as reliable without asking. For example, “its true - if you don’t believe me go an ask?” They will give details as if you asked for it and they will go as far as saying they got the news from the horse’s mouth. They want to establish authenticity.

5. They like to listen to their voice - what you say does not matter but what they say matters. The more they speak and listen to themselves the more they can reassure themselves they are doing justice to their narrative. It is a sense of false reflection.

So the next time someone you meet for the first time sweeps you off your feet, take some time to hold yourself to the ground and ask yourself some pertinent questions if this person is real?

.....after all from my experience the person who has a lot to share is sometimes the one who has little to speak about...

 Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (IFI).

At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprise sector are able to enjoy and afford the benefits of top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus our expertise on the Management and the Board. We help organisations be impactful, sustainable and resilient.