It’s lonely at the top, and some CEOs like having a confidant — some loyal soul who can serve as a sounding board. But far too often this loyal lieutenant takes advantage of their privileged position. Instead of being a dispassionate counselor, they become a drama queen. Drama queens are invested in continuing the drama, not in producing results. Retaining their privileged position is the goal, and all their advice becomes colored by some shade of what they think is in their best interests.
Drama queens “manage up” brilliantly, so when they report to you it’s easy to be fooled by them. But if you know what to look for, you can spot them:
When your confidant delights in discussing someone else’s shortcomings, or draws you into gossip about others—you have a drama queen.
When your confidant spends more time on office intrigue, and less time discussing their own work and their results—you have a drama queen.
When your confidant is suspicious of everyone else’s motives, or tries to block access to you, or tries to insulate you from the opinions of others—you have a drama queen.
When your confidant never disagrees with you, and never brings you information that challenges your assumptions—you have someone who is not trying to do any actual work. You have a drama queen.
Drama queens survive based on their relationship with the leader, and could not survive based on their merit or accomplishments. Over time, this is corrosive to the entire organization. Other executives begin to challenge the CEO’s judgment, asking each other “Why does he listen to that guy?”
Your best protection from drama queens is to be relentlessly focused on results, metrics and business outcomes. Drama queens prefer the dark corners, and are repelled by the bright lights of clear accountability.
As they say, “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” That’s great for friendship, but who can a CEO turn to for wise counsel? I suggest you look outside the organization, and consider joining a CEO forum like Vistage—you will receive far better counsel, and it will be far less corrosive than having a drama queen in your midst.