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In our last segment, we pointed out how a chameleon leader may come across as a wise and discerning person, when in reality, a chameleon leader is flexible to a fault, making inappropriate accommodations to the people and circumstances around them.


While the chameleon may be sincere and well meaning, their commitments are as transient as the changing world around them.

They may indeed be savvy and adept in managing the moment, but this should not be confused with genuine wisdom and insight.  What the chameleon promises to do today is certainly genuine commitment—today.  But today is not tomorrow and tomorrow is not the next day.  To quote the 1960’s song by Chad and Jeremy,

That was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.”

So, stay tuned.  Tomorrow is a new today, with new set of circumstances evoking new promises and sincere responses.  And the day after tomorrow is another day.

The chameleon leader may indeed be savvy and adept in managing the moment, but this should not be confused with genuine wisdom and insight.

The chameleon orientation was expressed by the portfolio manager of an investment firm in the company’s semi-annual report.

Time for Transparency words on a white clock face to illustrate honesty, sincerity, forthrightness and truthfulness

The views expressed in this report reflect those of the portfolio manager only through the end of the period of the report as stated on the cover.  The manager’s views are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions (Fidelity Semi-annual Report, April 30, 1998, Targeted International Equity Funds).

So much for guiding principles to chart the course in changing times.  While I admire this kind of flexibility in a stock portfolio manager, especially in a dynamic economy, nevertheless, the portfolio manager’s statement to the effect that,

I reserve the right to change my mind at any moment based on unspecified conditions”

did not bolster my confidence and didn’t lay the foundation for an enduring relationship. As an investor, I certainly want my portfolio manager to be responsive to a volatile and unpredictable environment.  But I also want to know the core convictions and guiding principles that shape his or her investing.  I left the fund.

Not surprisingly, like the porcupine, chameleons don’t make effective leaders.

While the chameleon has no difficulty making promises, they have great difficulty keeping them.

While they are more than capable of attracting others, they find it difficult to sustain these relationships.  This is true to form, because the chameleon leader won’t be tied down by enduring commitments.  Consequently, chameleons regularly disappoint those who understandably mistake the chameleon’s “sincerity” and “wisdom” as an expression of something deeper and constant—timeless principles or enduring values.


Now that we have uncovered the chameleon leader, we can talk about how to “chameleon proof” our relationships.  Remember Goldilocks leaders?

Next time we will discuss how Goldilocks leaders are able to “chameleon proof” their leadership by monitoring the outer ring to insure that it is the right size and stays vitally connected to the inner core.

Finding that “just right” relationship will help you make a difference in your circle of influence. Look back for our final installments of “Goldilocks, Porcupines & Chameleons”.



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