During the last presidential campaign, Al Gore received ridicule, and inspired the best candy bar ad ever (by Snickers) by claiming he’d invented the Internet.
The only problem is, that isn’t what he said. Here’s the exact quote: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Which, depending how you define “the Internet,” he did, in 1988 when neither business leaders nor the party of business had any idea something important was going on.
As an IT leader, this fact is worth your knowing, if for no other reason than to give credit where it’s due for the central reality of information technology in 2003.
It’s also worth your knowing for more practical reasons: Understanding how Gore got skewered just might help you avoid a common and deadly leadership mistake.
Gore’s skewering came from the public relations arm of the Republican National Committee, which planted the distortion among friendly political commentators. The RNC deserves credit for highly effective PR. The political press, on the other hand, bought the story hook, line and sinker, likely because many reporters found Gore personally unlikable. Shame on them for lazy reporting. (Check The Daily Howler — www.dailyhowler.com — for a detailed account of these events in all their glory.)
Back to you: Is there a chance you’re … Goring … someone who reports to you for similar reasons?
Perhaps you have a backstabber in your organization — someone who is adept at planting falsehoods that are damaging to a rival and close enough to the facts that the backstabber will be safe if you see through the deception?
Or perhaps someone in your department is arrogant, obnoxious, or even suffers from Asperger’s syndrome (which can make someone an excellent technologist but difficult to relate to), but does both their job and those of several other employees whose main skill is taking the credit. Do you recognize the real contributor, or do praise and raises go to the employees with whom you’re most comfortable?
It’s important to know who your best performers are, and even more important to understand what each of your performers is best at. As you work to gain this information, remember: Political maneuvering is far more evident when you’re a spectator than a participant — especially an unwitting one.