'The Ugly Room' - Authentic Leadership (1-minute clip)

by The Architect on Jan 4, 2017

So, being an 'authentic' leader at work means embracing the ugly truth.

Tim Leberecht gives a brief but brilliant example of how one manufacturer turned around a struggling business unit by showcasing its obstacles to success. A practical tool you might want to consider replicating, though perhaps downscale to an 'ugly billboard'...

Tim Leberecht

"The ugly became visible for everyone to see. It was celebrated."


So many organizations these days are keen on designing beautiful workplaces that look like anything but work. Location resorts, coffee shops, playgrounds or college campuses... Based on the promises of positive psychology. They speak of play, of gameification... One start-up even says that when someone gets fired they have 'graduated'.

That kind of beautiful language only goes skin deep. But ugly cuts clean to the bone.

As the writer Dorothy Parker once put it, 'to be authentic is to be ugly'. It doesn't mean that you can't have fun or that you must give in to the vulgar or cynical, but it does mean you speak the actual, ugly truth.

Like this manufacturer that wanted to transform one of its struggling business units. It identified, named and pinned on large boards all the issues, there were hundreds of them, that had become obstacles to better performance.

They put them on boards and moved them all into one room, which they called The Ugly Room. The Ugly became visible for everyone to see, it was celebrated. And the Ugly Room served as a mix of mirror, exhibition and operating room - a biopsy on the living flesh to cut out all the bureaucracy.

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