Leadership Hypocrisy: Do You Ask People To Do What You Won’t?

Are you a hypocrite?

Yes, that’s a real question that seeks an honest and self-reflective response. Whether it’s in your work or personal life, do you ask others to do things you won’t? Or, conversely, do ask others not to do something you do?

Oftentimes, we look at situations that we’re involved in, whether in life or at work, with the ultimate hope that they’ll benefit us — and rightly so. This isn’t to say it’s for selfish reasons but instead so that we are able to do our best in whatever environment we are working.

But, do we hold certain standards which yield better results for ourselves while undermining others by not holding the same standard for them – whether we are the ones impacting them or standing idly by while it is someone or something else who is?

“When so many things are out of our control, why not control those factors which we can, like our word?”

The last part of that question – where we might be idly watching – is important because hypocrisy is not only about what we do or don’t do ourselves, but what we tolerate by others and in the environment.

We can’t set up the right environment for ourselves and expect other people to settle for what we won’t.

Such flawed expectations of others demonstrate a few things about you to both them and whoever else might be watching:

Lack of Workplace Awareness

This type of hypocrisy gives the perception that you don’t mind that the workplace can be built on empty promises and false starts. It shows you might not respect the workplace and what it takes to keep it moving. The majority of people are invested in their workplace, so saying one thing while doing another hinders the workplace success by not reconciling the action steps with the mission guidance you provided beforehand.

Lack of Integrity

You become two different people as soon as you don’t follow your own advice – the person who states what they believe should be done and the person who takes exception to the advice when it is convenient for them. It signals that trust can neither be placed nor invested in you. One needs to know who the person is exactly whom they are following and trusting.

Lack of Respect

This demonstrates you do not respect the person to whom you are providing the advice. Since they know what you are telling them and then will see what you do or don’t do later, you’re demonstrating that you have no accountability to them and that their perception of you does not seem to matter.

Lack of Commitment/Investment

Beyond the lack of respect, not practicing what one preaches in their advice to others also hinders the relationship between the two parties going forward because it demonstrates at some deep level that there is limited commitment to the relationship evolving.

This doesn’t look so good to the person who got the advice – that the advice wasn’t good enough for the provider of it to take it themselves. Because of this, the respect in the relationship, and now its future, is called into question.


“Reconciling your advice and your actions sets an influential and admirable example for those around you and contributes to a culture built on integrity, respect, and pride.”

The ability to maintain your integrity — that what you say is what you will do, no matter where you are – is powerful and impactful. It sets the tone for your environment and for those around you. It provides you with valuable credibility in the eyes of others.

Now, there are other situations where advice is provided and, based on uncontrollable circumstances of the environment, the provider of the advice does the opposite of what they had advised. This is fine as long as a debrief takes place at some point where the adviser provides a breakdown of why things worked out differently, leading them to take different steps than those they had suggested for others.

In this case, it isn’t making empty excuses for why the advice was not followed; there had to be true unpredictability in the environment, or learning in the situation and moment, that lead the adviser to act contrary to their advice.

There will always be learning moments. If those learning moments change the advice, convey that to others when possible.

Related Post: How Long Do You Wait Before You Admit Something Isn’t Working Out?

Reconciling your advice and your actions sets an influential and admirable example for those around you and contributes to a culture built on integrity, respect, and pride.

“…hypocrisy is not only about what we do or don’t do ourselves, but what we tolerate by others and in the environment.”

This is yet another free tool (or consideration) of leadership. It’s there for us to either take or not.

It takes no major effort or time to achieve. In a sense, it’s keeping our word: I would only provide advice to you that I would take and follow-through on myself.

Don’t let yourself slip between different masks and faces. When so many things are out of our control, why not control those factors which we can, like our word?

So, What About You?

  • How do you go about reconciling your advice to your actions?
  • How do you clarify your actions after they might have gone contrary to your advice?
  • How have you addressed someone in your environment who has gone against the advice they provided?

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