When Job Titles Mislead
Leaders should look beyond fancy job titles to assess expertise and character when evaluating people.
We’ve all seen it - the magnetic pull of a distinguished job title. The embellished labels can entice anyone into presuming expertise and prowess exist where little can be found. In our admiration for fancy titles like Chief, Vice President, and Director, we sometimes overlook the substance behind the label.
Like bright packaging on inferior candy, flowery titles often disguise skills and talents not worthy of high praise. Sadly, in too many cases, organizations allow fancy titles to improperly decorate the unremarkable.
Don’t be fooled by the glitter and gold. As Maya Angelou warned, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” No title can hide the truth for long.
The misstep organizations commonly make is allowing titles to become identities. Just like your name doesn’t define you, a job title is no true measure of capability and character. Fancy labels predict so little of what someone can achieve. Yet we fall for them over and over.
In my early days leading high-tech marketing teams, I recall being awestruck meeting various executives at competitor firms. Their distinguished titles painted an image of almost mythical capability. What I came to realize is that while a rare few lived up to their billing, most resembled the Wizard of Oz, comparatively unimpressive without the dramatics.
As leaders, we must guard against the magnetic influence of the fancy title to distort our evaluations and choices. Remind yourself that capability outshines any label. Focus assessments on true expertise, not the embellishments of a striking title. Recognize that character and values eclipse any privileged positioning in the hierarchy.
Maya Angelou was right. We must believe what we see in others over any identity a fancy title might suggest. A distinguished label makes a poor disguise for the pretenders among us. Focus on the person, not the package.