Don’t Be a Drama Queen

Everybody loves a good drama story, but we all know the difference between fiction and real life, right? We know the real world – especially the business world – doesn’t revolve around us and our mini-dramas, don’t we? “Bueller? … Bueller? … Bueller?” The silence is deafening.

OK, fair enough. By all means, make everything about you. Behave like a drama queen at work, on social media, in public. But unless you’re an entertainer who is into that sort of thing, don’t come crying to me when you ruin your reputation, lose your job, and nobody is willing to hire you.

The thing is, your professional reputation depends on your credibility, and the last time I checked, that’s more or less the opposite of drama. Credibility is a quality that inspires others to believe you’re genuine, honest, and knowledgeable. Credibility means you’ll hold yourself accountable to do your job effectively. It means folks can trust you.

The only thing your personal drama tells your stakeholders – customers, employees, and investors – is that your ego comes ahead of their best interest. And that’s not a good thing, especially if you’re in a management or leadership position.

Sadly, we’re seeing a shift from leadership role models that exude professionalism and personal accountability to self-interested self-promoters that whine incessantly, play the victim, point fingers, and blame everyone for their own mistakes and bad behavior but themselves. 

Consider the case of Gurbaksh Chahal, founder of advertising tech company RadiumOne. The entrepreneur has been a flamboyant, egotistical self-promoter for years, so when he plead guilty to two counts of battery over a domestic violence dispute, that was big news. So was the social media firestorm calling for his head.

But instead of managing the crisis the right way – admitting he screwed up, apologizing, and letting things settle down – the 32-year old wrote and promoted long blog posts painting himself as the victim, lashing out at those he feels wronged him, and blaming just about everyone for his situation. That got him fired.

Chahal thinks he was done in by a prostituting girlfriend, attacked by police and prosecutors jealous of his success, exploited by a page-view hungry media, and betrayed by a greedy board of directors. In reality, he joined the growing list of predominantly young people committing social media suicide, aka death by drama.

Granted, the guy still has a huge following in the Twitterverse, but I seriously doubt if they’re the folks that will fund his next venture, join his executive team, or consider sitting on his next board of directors, knowing what his dramatic antics put RadiumOne through. More importantly, and like it or not, the successful serial entrepreneur is a role model for lots of young people, many of whom aspire to be just like him.

Even if Chahal never learns his lesson, I’m sure he’s made enough money and connections to live a comfortable life. But what about his followers? How many of them sold their company to Yahoo for $300 million when they were 25, as Chahal did with BlueLithium? They can’t afford to self-destruct at 32, as he did.

This sort of behavior will be a sad and unfortunate legacy – an albatross hanging heavily around the necks of those who might otherwise become the executives and business leaders of a new generation.

Not to lay this entire problem at the feet of the social media-enabled Me Generation. They’re getting the message loud and clear from a broad swath of role models that acting out like entitled little narcissistic brats is the path to prosperity and happiness.

After all, we see the same sort of bad behavior – lack of accountability, selfish self-promotion, finger pointing, incessant whining, and angry tirades – among our most powerful political leaders, rich and famous socialites and entertainers, and of course, all over the media, social or otherwise.

The great irony is that this generation grew up with the most powerful medium of communication in history: the Internet. But their brave new world has been hijacked by self-obsessed drama queens that wield that enormous power as recklessly as little kids with toy guns and light sabers.

If the concept of personal branding has taught us anything, it’s that, in a world where everyone has a voice and everyone is a star, everyone is also a product. And, as every senior executive should know, your product is your brand.

The lesson is clear. People will judge you by their experience with your product. They will judge you by their experience with you in both the physical and virtual worlds. There’s nothing wrong with following drama queens on Twitter and reality TV. But if you want to be successful in the real world, don’t be one.