The greatest sharing of information does not always happen in the classroom. The night prior to an event I spoke at in Scottsdale, Arizona the leadership team of this client was assembled at the Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse; world-renounce for cutting off any necktie that walks into their establishment and proudly hanging it from the ceiling.
As we waited on our meals to arrive I was asked a very insightful question. From the last 14 years of working with leadership teams from numerous organizations, what would I say is the most important three characteristics of a well-respected leader in an organization? He went on to clarify his question was more concerned with leadership longevity as opposed to the shooting star leader who comes from no where, gets everyone pumped up, and moves on to his next contract.
He hypothesized that through sound bites and high energy most any charismatic individual can ascend to the top (he then referred a recent President.)
Indeed, how does one stay on top and continue to have people follow years and years in the business world?
There is no substitution for the ability to perform. The old saying, a rising tide lifts all ships is also true in the business world. If the economy is good, the organization is on a fast growth track and customer interest is high it's easy to look good without regard to ability. The only competency in times like these is in not screwing up. Real competency appears in tough times. Who is willing to make the hard decisions, who has the confidence to stay with the vision, and who has the ability to shine even in the darkest times.
Competence as a leader is having all the tools for what ever the occasion and knowing when to use what tool. It's ignoring the path of least resistance and doing what is best for everyone involved regardless of the potential personal peril because you believe in your skills.
Competence is also having the self-confidence to admit mistakes and grow from those errors, publicly and openly.
Competence does not come from a college degree and it does not come from watching the actions of others. It's all about doing. Doing the things that you know to your core is the right thing to do regardless of what the market is telling you. Competent leaders are not looking first for personal gain and they are not looking at the uncontrollable negatives all businesses face.
Competent leaders have the ability to see the full view of any situation and with great frequency can deliver just the right income at just the right time. Seldom do we celebrate the competent leader because they are not looking for the headlines for their successes and they do not make the nasty headlines because they do not make those kinds of mistakes. But, if you look for well-run companies with a long history of success and a leader in place for many years, you will find a leader of vast confidence.
Leadership consistency is not about having the board meeting at the same time every week like clock work. It is not about using the same marketing strategy.
A leader who is consistent is not chasing customer fads. People do not know what to expect from organizations chasing whatever they can make money on, because it speaks of insecurity and desperation. Take fast food burger joints for instance. One day they are selling me double bacon cheeseburgers with super-sized French fries and milk shakes and the next day they are telling me they care about my health and want me to eat salads or their burgers wrapped in as leaf of lettuce. Huh? Now the burger places are big to bigger is better options. No wonder consumers are confused, and a little bit leery. The burger-buying public are starting to think these places are no longer interested in creating the best burger, but maybe they are more interested in just getting my money in their registers – no matter what they offer. A Chicken Whopper? Puhlease! What leadership consistency is about is behavioral response, expectations and judgment.
Followers and customers are looking for consistency, whether in restaurant service or leadership style and expectations. The consistency during the rough times, the slow business times and the crunch of deadlines are what define consistent leaders. The ability to stay the course, on track and maintaining a solid vision forward leadership leadership confidence and control.
Do you act differently at the end of the month trying to cram in last minute orders for the sake of a number on a report? Is that consistent with your "vision" or have you lost your normal long-term approach? This is just one example you should review in your daily activities to ensure you are maintaining your consistency of presence to those that follow your leadership.
We've all worked for managers that were characters, but it takes personal character to become a well-respected leader with longevity. What is personal character? One of my favorite quotes states: Character is lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the alter of conformity and popularity. Another favorite quote states: You can tell more about a person's character by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.
Character is the inner strength of a leader to have resolve while being beyond reproach. Weakness of attitude leads to weakness in character and in today's business arena, character stands tall above the norm. With all of the pressures of leadership at the current pace of business, it takes a unique individual to demonstrate character. Character is the guidelines by which decisions are made. Are decisions in the best interest of those following? Or, are they in the best interest of the leader himself?
Our society has become preoccupied with possessions as a demonstration of success and it's easy to fall into the trappings of the "material competition." But true leadership is measured by the impact a person has on another and the lasting nationality of development he leaves behind him.
Want to test your own character? Ask yourself these three questions:
1. In the last year, how many lives did I change for the better because I took the time to take an interest in them?
2. In the last year, how many work-related decisions did I make that in my heart I knew had an overall negative impact on those affected?
3. In the last year, what material holdings did I purchase because I could, not because I needed it? Could there have been a better use?
How do you feel about your answers? Let's make more character-driven decisions.
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