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George Washington Bridge Leadership
Stephen R. Balzac, Leadership Development Expert Stephen R. Balzac, Leadership Development Expert
Stow , MA
Thursday, February 13, 2014



7 Steps Ahead, LLC

Organizational Psychology for Managers sold out at Amazon.com two days after it was released! Fortunately, more copies are now available. Click here to order. For excerpts, click here To read a review of the book, click here.

How can you make sure you're in the right place at the right time?

When is efficiency ruining your productivity?

What does it take for a team to consistently use its strengths instead of its weaknesses?

Just how different are leaders and managers really?

Despite the old claim about frogs sitting in water until it boils, they actually are smart enough to jump out. Why don't people do the same?

Why is it so hard to deal with Jerks in the office?

If there's no "I" in team, how does the team see where it's going?

Here's what Bank of America has to say about how leaders impact high performance teams

What can you do when you feel you don't fit into a new organizational culture?

Some comments from my recent talk on Making Change Work at the Computer Measurement Group International Conference in Las Vegas.

Trying to build a creative, innovative culture? Check out this short article from Investors Business Daily.

Job feeling stressful? Here's how to relax at work.

If you want a motivated workforce, check out this article from Fox Business

Learn the secrets of Mastering Your Schedule on Time Tamer Talk Radio.

"The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development" was listed by Amazon.com as one of the top 100 books on organizational behavior.



Publications and Announcements

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Are You Speaking to Me?

in Corp! Magazine

When the Solution is the Problem

in Corp! Magazine

The Paradox of Perfection


American Business Magazine

Flawed Execution? Don't Lose Your Head Over It

in Corp! Magazine

The Destroyer of Cultures

at ERE.Net

Help Star Performers Ramp Up The Whole Team

in Corp! Magazine


The Secret to Productive Staff Meetings   

in Medical Office Today 

 Don't Let Dracula Decisions Roam Your Business  

in Corp! Magazine 

The Blame of Phobos Grunt  

in Corp! Magazine 


 The Four Horsemen of Business Failure  

in MeasureIT

Of Cats and Unwanted Prizes 

in Corp! Magazine

Who Betrays One Master 

in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership


 My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

in Corp! Magazine


Using the Force: What Every Exec Can Learn From Darth Vader

in the Worcester Business Journal

"Balance the Individual and the Team for Top Performance"

in Corp! Magazine

"Real Science Fiction"

in Corp! Magazine

"Shaky Ground"

in Lab Manager Magazine

Zen and the Art of Leadership

Talk presented at Infotec 2010

Recent Interviews

Tell About Mistakes and Failed Projects

in Investors Business Daily

A Bad Work Environment Can Make You Sick

on CareerBliss


How Much Does Motivation Matter? 

  in CSI International


Profiting from Your Performance Review  

in NASDAQ Careers News


 Motivating Small Business Employees to Work As Hard As You  

in the Phonebooth


 Relax at Work? Ha! 

in the Jewish Exponent


The Mobility Morass  

in Specialty Fabrics Review


HR Mistake of the Week: Why Hiring for Emotional Intelligence Gets You a BFF Instead of a Star Employee

in The Grindstone

Using Games to Build Your Team

on the Talking Work Podcast

How to Use Sports to Advance Leadership and Organizational Development

on the Full Potential Show with James Rick

Hiring Mistakes

with Todd Raphael,

Editor, Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership

Organizational Development on

The David Lush Show, WNIX 1330 AM

Innovation and Corporate Culture

on KKZZ Brainstormin' with Bill Frank

The Startup Business Coach

The CEO and Organizational Development



How to Motivate Your Employees

on Fox Business

Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Move

in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Art of Branding Your Career 

in Psychology Today

Prepping for Your Annual Review 

in the NY Times


Making Pay Decisions Transparent 

in Human Resource Executive


Don't Like Your Job? Define One You Like 

in IT World


Computer Measurement Group Announces Keynote and Plenary Speakers for CMG'11 Taking Place December 5-9, 2011 at Gaylord National Hotel in D.C. Area  


 Career Focus: Engineering Management in Today's Engineer, a publication of the IEEE



4 Ways to Log Off on Time Off 


 About Creating Visions and Organizational Goals 


Researchers Find 'The Paradox of Meritocracy' 

in Human Resource Executive 


Game Changer 

in SHRM India


How to Stay Motivated on the Road to ITIL Expert  

in ITSM Watch


To Be a Leader, You Must Be a Follower 

in Oregon Business


 Incentivizing Employees

in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals

Tips for Making, Keeping Business Resolutions

at Fox Small Business

The Evolution of Leadership

Getting Results: Performance vs. Putting in the Hours

How to Self-Promote Without Being Obnoxious

on CNN

Hiring Headaches

in the IndUS Business Journal

Identifying Your Future Leaders

in IndustryWeek Magazine


Natural Born Project Managers: Myth or Reality at Project Manager Planet


How to Survive a Bad Team Leader

at Yahoo! Careers

Books and CDs

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 George Washington Bridge Leadership
(originally published on the Human Talent Network)

I very much enjoyed the Hunger Games, both the books and the movies. The story is a gripping one, of a dystopian future and the corrupt government that holds power through brutality and, of course, the Games. The portrayal of the political environment and machinations are particularly well done, with one notable exception: a certain major figure makes use of poison to further his aims. As a powerful government official, there is no reason for him to do that: he had the full apparatus of the state at his disposal and a team of loyal flunkies ready to act on his behalf. There was no reason for him to use as crude a tool as poison.

The power of the state, along with some loyal flunkies, was on full display in the news lately. The news this past week with was filled with stories of New Jersey governor Chris Christie and a scandal with the unfortunate, but inevitable, name of "Bridgegate." According to the New York Times, Bridgegate involves having all but one lane of the George Washington Bridge closed down for four straight days last September, causing complete traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, NJ. Although Christie laughed it off at first, subsequent revelations are showing that people in his office were responsible. Indeed, he just fired his deputy chief of staff when it turned out she was involved.

In the political arena, the questions are, "What did Governor Christie know? When did he know it?" He claims that his staff kept the information from him. I am not particularly interested in those questions; this isn't a political article. Rather, I am much more interested in what the behavior of Chris Christie's immediate staff and appointees says about him as a leader and what lessons business leaders can learn from these events.

Leadership is a funny thing, and can take many forms. Some leaders and quiet and self-effacing; others are loud and brash. No matter the overt style adopted by a leader, the actions of the leader set the tone for the group. The leader who is organized and focused on building a good process eventually gets a staff who also value process. The leader who values results at all costs eventually gets a staff that values results at all costs. This is the nature of leadership: the leader is the person out in front, setting the example. The team follows the leader and the team imitates the leader. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and most people like to flatter the boss. People who imitate, that is, flatter the boss, are those whom the boss is most likely to reward.

Thus, how a team behaves when the leader isn't looking tells us a great deal about the leader. If the team behaves ethically when no one is watching, then odds are pretty darn good that the leader holds to high ethical standards. On the other hand, if a team behaves unethically, that also says something about the example being set from the top.

Most leaders will also at least go through a period when their staff worships them. Good leaders recognize this can happen and work hard to get past it. Weaker leaders are quite happy to be worshipped and are content to foster and maintain that sort of atmosphere. The best leaders build up their followers and transform them into highly effective, ethical leaders as well.

In Governor Christie's case, it appears that his direct reports deliberately withheld information from him and lied to him when he asked them about it. They also seem quite willing to take the fall for him, at least if the news reports are correct. Assuming this is all true, it tells us a great deal about his leadership and the state of his team.

What sort of example was Christie setting that led his people to believe that their behavior was acceptable? Had it been one person involved, well, occasionally bad apples do get in. The correct behavior is to fire them as soon as you find them. Had the actions in question been taken by people far down the organizational hierarchy, that too would be less meaningful: The influence of the leader is always strongest at the top, and does weaken as we move further and further away from the centers of power. But the people involved in Fort Lee's Traffigeddon were members of Christie's inner circle. They apparently thought that using state power to pursue a private agenda was acceptable and that their boss would want them to do it. They also apparently thought that it was okay to lie to their boss about it. What sort of leader conveys those messages to his subordinates?

So how does this apply to business? Ultimately, the attitude the CEO exhibits is the attitude that the staff will imitate. At one maker of scientific software, the CEO viewed the customers as a bunch of incompetent idiots. Why did he take that view? Well, apparently they had the temerity to criticize aspects of his software. Of course, he never expressed his views to his customers, but he was quite open about them in private with his subordinates. This led to a general atmosphere of amusement and condescension when a customer called in for help. The customers, highly educated professionals, were not idiots; at least, they were sufficiently not idiotic to know when they were being laughed at and condescended to. Moreover, because customers were viewed as idiots, their feedback was routinely ignored. Eventually, as competing products entered the market, customers deserted the company in droves. In the end, the company went out of business.

If team members view the leader and the team as indistinguishable, the problem can get even worse. When the leader is too much the center of mass of the team, team members won't wait for instructions. Instead, they will attempt to do what they think the boss wants, often without really considering whether those actions are necessarily the best actions to take. When you add to that mix a sufficiently inappropriate role model, you have a serious problem brewing. Of course, in Chris Christie's case, it didn't just brew; it boiled over, and he will have to clean up the mess. High performance teams, on the other hand, understand their goals, think through the process of accomplishing those goals, and consider the ramifications of their actions.

Ultimately, the more your team likes you, the more they want to impress you. Assuming they are sufficiently skilled to take action without your specific instructions, the actions they do take will be governed by how they feel about you and by the example you set. The initiative they take will be the initiative you've taught them is good. In other words, if you're wondering how your team could have done something amazingly brilliant, or utterly stupid, all you really need to do is look in the mirror. If you want to change what your team is doing, that's the place to start.





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Stephen R Balzac

About 7 Steps Ahead 
Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is a consultant, author, professional speaker, and president of 7 Steps Ahead, specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and transform problems into opportunities.

Steve has over twenty years of experience in the high tech industry and is the former Director of Operations for Silicon Genetics, in Redwood City, CA.

Steve is the author of The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, published by McGraw-Hill and a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play. Steve's latest book, "Organizational Psychology for Managers," was released by Springer in the fall of 2013. He writes the monthly business column, "Balzac on Business."

He is the president of the Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) and served as a member of the board of the New England Society for Applied Psychology. No stranger to the challenges of achieving peak performance under competitive and stressful conditions, he holds a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and is a former nationally ranked competitive fencer. Steve is an adjunct professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has given talks at MIT and WPI.


About Steve Balzac

Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is an author, consultant, and professional speaker. He is the president of 7 Steps Ahead, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and turn problems into opportunities.

Steve's background in engineering, management, psychology, martial arts, and competitive sports makes him a popular speaker on topics ranging from leadership, motivation, team building, interviewing skills, and sport performance to computer game design. He was a guest lecturer at MIT and WPI. His articles have appeared in a number of journals, including The Journal of Interactive Drama, The IBM Systems Journal, Mass High Tech, Enterprise Management Quarterly, The CEO Refresher, The Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, Analog SF/F and the Worcester Business Journal.

Steve is a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play and the author of the 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development published by McGraw-Hill and the forthcoming Organizational Psychology for Managers. He is a frequent guest on radio shows including Motivational Minds and Leadership Radio, and is frequently quoted in a variety of publications including The New York Times, IndustryWeek Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Business Journal.

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Stephen R. Balzac
7 Steps Ahead, LLC
Stow, MA
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