Does Devious Leadership work in the Information Age?

“We are not selling anything so we can’t be soliciting.”



“Yes, to be soliciting we have to knock on the door or approach you in person.  We don’t do that.”

“You are in our gated community so you must have seen that big ‘No Soliciting’ sign on the front gate.  That should have given you a clue as to how we feel about this type of marketing and sales?”

“We are not soliciting.  We are just offering a free service.”

Feeling a little persnickety and sensing a good story to share on this blog, I pushed further and was offered an opportunity to speak to the supervisor (after an invitation for a free home energy assessment.)  I got the exact same story.  He too offered me a chance to have a free in-home energy assessment.  Then he offered an opportunity to speak to his director, who was equally versed in parroting the company line.  You guessed it, he too offered an in-home assessment.  Each of the three levels of employees insisted that they followed the letter of the law – they were not soliciting.   They thought they were being clever, smart or very savvy in sales.  

I do have to admit that they were likely successful in selling their services.  But I doubt they made many repeat sales.


They were missing a critical part of the story.  They didn’t see how they were building a brand as a devious company with devious leadership.  

They didn’t see how it was a devious lie.  

‘sorry if that sounds a little harsh but let me explain.

I had seen the door hangers before and had received the robo phone calls.  I was intrigued about how they operated so I dug a little further.  Sure enough, they confirmed my suspicions.

But it wasn’t easy.  It never is with devious people.

“We are just offering a free service.”

“So are you a government entity?”


“Are you a not-for-profit?”


“So how do you make a profit?”

Finally, after persistent questioning, they admitted  offering a list of products and services for a fee.  It was obvious that had to be the case but they repeatedly refused to admit it.  Why?  Why would a company be so stubborn about hiding what their business model?

“What is the cost of the additional services?”

“Every house is different.  We cannot compare homes.”

“Can you give me a ball park price for one of your services.”

“Like I said, everyone is different.  Giving you a price is impossible.”


Round and round we went until they finally admitted that they sold  36 products and services.

“What is one product your sell?”

“We offer different products.  What are you interested in?”  Again, they refused to willingly engage in an honest conversation.

“Since you focus on energy conservation, do you sell natural gas tankless Water Heaters?”

“We only focus on saving electricity costs.”

“Ok, how about an electric tankless water heater?”

“We don’t sell Water Heaters.  We only sell the timers for Water Heaters.”

Ok, finally we are getting somewhere.

“What is the price for one of those?”

Hesitantly he said, “$350.

I instantly knew that was high so I ended the call, amidst their persistent offer to schedule an in-home evaluation.

I quickly Googled “water heater timer” and found several for about $45. .

After a bit more checking online, I found a few reviews that sounded exactly like my experience.  Once in the home, they turn on the guilt and give no time for any comparison shopping while they offer very overpriced products and services.

Wouldn’t you consider that devious?  

Devious is purposely hiding information that would be valuable to the other person. Devious is being “shifty” or “crooked.”

Their model is to purposely hide critical information and then make it difficult to say no.  But even if you said “no,” now you have this sales person in your kitchen.  Will they simply leave?  I doubt it.  After all, if they are that devious, they will abide by the old sales practice and “never accept ‘NO’ for an answer.  So you have to ask them to leave your own home.  It is not like you are in their store and can walk out.  Talk about uncomfortable.

That is a devious method of selling.

Why would a company choose to operate that way in a world of transparent information?  

To create a radical change or disruptive innovation in this Sharing Economy, TRUST is ESSENTIAL. More than ever, we do business with those we know, like and trust.  We can check out any company online.  We check reviews and ask for references.   We demand a transparent process and access to information.  That is the way it works in the Information Age.

This company thinks they are smart because they are making money.  But is it smart if you are using secrecy to make a sale?  

No.  Smart leaders build raving fans that buy repeatedly because they know, like and, yes the last one is the most critical, TRUST you.  

Devious leadership will never disappear but it is increasingly difficult to survive under that model.  Devious practices will be exposed in a world of instantaneous access, iReporters, blogs, Twitter, Instagram and, maybe the most telling, entrepreneurs.  Devious leaders will be disrupted by enterprising individuals who take the best part of that devious model, make it transparent and then offer the products at a cheaper price.  Almost overnight, that devious company is gone.

Fly by night companies built on devious leadership will always be around but it is getting harder and harder to keep a hidden agenda.   Devious leaders will be disrupted.

  • Do your followers trust you?
  • Ask them if there is anything you do that could be seen as devious.
  • Listen carefully to the story they are telling.

 Be Bold

Be Decisive and Transparent

Become the Disruptive Leader

I am Dr. Loren Murfield and I work with aspiring and emerging leaders to become disruptive leaders by telling powerful stories.  One decision I help them make is in writing their weekly blog, articles, white papers, online courses and a book.    If that is your desire, contact me today.

Checkout my online leadership platform.  Power University

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(c) Murfield International, Inc.  2016



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