Who You Are is How You Lead

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”  Socrates

If you are practicing the ‘fake it ’till you make it’ philosophy of life beware.  People are looking for that which is real. 

The world we live in is much less predictable and that means the rules are changing.  I am observing people looking for leaders and managers whom they can trust.  Sensitivity to authentic leadership is on everyone’s radar and depth of character is being sought out.     

Jon Eisele, Partner at Deloitte, sent me an email this week commenting on how the current business environment might shape our expectations of leaders.  Jon writes:

“I think leadership today is more about servant-leadership than it has ever been.  We have to remind ourselves continuously that ‘who we are’ is far more important than ‘what we accomplish’.  Too many examples of people who minimized personal character in order to win…Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriquez, Bernie Madoff, Tom Petters.”

I think Jon might be on to something.  What do you think?

In the Bernie Madoff scheme, it is interesting how his victims speak more emotionally about his arrogance and disrespect of them, than the millions of dollars they’ve lost because of him.  The pain and devastation of their financial loss is overshadowed by Madoff’s utter contempt  for them as people, colleagues and friends.  I mean, it is one thing to grapple with a shattered trust, but when the person who betrayed you shows no remorse it is practically unbearable.  A broken trust is the most devastating blow to the human spirit. 

So, how do you build trust and gain credibility to lead in a time when every leader is suspect? 

Let’s take a Q&A approach.  I will share my observations from my work with trusted leaders through 5 key questions and you provide the answers.  Think deeply and honestly about the degree to which these attributes characterize your leadership.

1.  Are you consistent?  Predictability builds trust.  It always amazes me how people don’t mind working for the most demanding manager if that manager is consistent in their views and expectations.  The consistency must also include equality in how people are treated.  Avoid showing partiality, be consistent in your operating principles and you will build a strong following.

2.  Are you adaptive?  Past experience applied to current problems indiscriminately leads to mistakes.  So, make sure your experience does not close your mind to exploring new and creative approaches.  Warren Bennis explains that adaptive leaders “have the ego strength to admit that there are things they don’t know and to see learning as a reciprocal process.” 

3.  Are you resilient?  The ability to recover from disappointment or change builds confidence in others.  People trust those who rise above personal fear and setbacks through genuine belief that tomorrow will be a better day.  Things will happen that you do not like and you cannot change.  But the most important thing that will be happening is what it reveals to others about who you are.

4. Can you take charge and let others lead?  Taking charge without taking over inspires creativity and personal responsibility in others.  Nothing is more de-motivating than a leader or manager who swoops in with half-baked directives and no consideration for the teams ideas and commitments. 

5.  Can you hold people’s feet to the fire and empathize with their needs?  People need to know your commitment to results is matched by your appreciation for the complexities they must deal with to achieve those results.  It is important not to confuse empathy with sympathy here.  People do not want sympathy; they want understanding.

Take a few minutes to share your thoughts…

 

 

 

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02-26-09

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