I heard a story yesterday. It was about someone - let's call him N.
N was an employee of one of India's top software organizations. He had joined them straight out of college and been an outstanding performer. Rising up from the Sales function he quickly moved to Delivery and then shifted to a new business unit.
He had been for 6 years in the system when he was recognised as a potential future leader and sent to head Delivery for the new business in a country where the company was setting up operations. Soon the business in taht country grew by leaps and bounds - and the CEO of the firm - let's call him P - came visiting.
Over the course of a press conference when someone asked P about terrorism and its causes - he gave a reply that suggested that some people were predisposed to terrorism. Unfortunately N was a member of the community that R talked about.
He was devastated that the CEO of the company where he works held such views - so much so that he talked with the country head that he would resign as he could not bear to continue working for such a company. The country manager tried to convince him to stay - he even talked to P (who had by then returned to India) and P even tried saying things like "I didn't mean it like that"
But the damage had been done.
N resigned and returned home to India, without even having another another job offer. However in 4 months he had joined an MNC in India in an equivalent role.
So the lesson for leaders is two fold
- Think before you talk about really controversial issues. They will be construed as the company's views, not just as your views, and
- It's not really what you mean - but what people infer that really matters.