Honesty, respect for others and consistency are part of being a leader

I've written about the role of each person in establishing a "code of ethics," or "core values" for their workplace. I'd like to elaborate on that code, particularly for leaders. Here are a few more thoughts.

What is your personal philosophy of leadership? I’m talking about how you think leaders should behave. Whether you realize it or not, you do have an inner code, or philosophy, that guides your behavior. When you force yourself to articulate your own beliefs, it causes you to think about them, commit to them and then to live them. 

Here are some of my thoughts. Perhaps it will get you thinking about your own philosophy. 

Shelve your ego.
It only gets in the way. When your own self-appreciating thoughts begin to lull you into self-worship, you begin to listen less to what people around you are really saying. Humility can be elusive when you have many people reporting to you; waiting for your orders; asking for your opinion; telling you that you’re great. Don’t be seduced. I remember an incident a few years ago, just after my new book had come out. I was doing a lot of book signings and feeling pretty darn good about my accomplishments. One night I was in a restaurant with a friend and I noticed that a woman began to stare at me after I returned from the ladies room. As she rose to approach my table, I thought to myself, "She must be coming over here because she recognized me." When she approached the table she said, "I just thought you’d like to know that you have a ten foot strip of toilet paper stuck to your shoe." 

Look inward first.
When things don’t go right, always look at yourself first to see what you could have done differently to prevent it. When someone who works for you is fired, when a good employee leaves to go somewhere else, when there is unrest or poor morale ask yourself what you could have done differently. It’s too easy to blame everyone else: "They were lazy," "She was ungrateful," "They don’t know what hard work is." You’re the leader. You don’t get off the hook that easily. You should be learning, not blaming. I find that the leaders who blame others are the ones who are usually at the root of the problem. 

Commit to growing the people around you.
This is simply a great win/win. The more you help people take additional responsibility, the more they are motivated and challenged, and the more you can accomplish. I know a lot of well-intentioned managers and business owners who don’t understand the value of this. A physician’s assistant put it this way, "He thinks that by doing everything himself it takes the burden off my shoulders. He’s trying to show me that he is a good guy who isn’t ‘better’ than I am. What he doesn’t realize is that he makes me feel inadequate and like he doesn’t trust me to do it right. Besides, I want the fun of contributing my part." 

Practice tactful honesty.
It sounds so basic, yet I see so many people afraid to practice this simple principle. Tell people the truth about their performance. Admit when you’ve made a blunder. Be authentic about how you are feeling about things. It’s contagious. You’ll see less politicking and more people expressing their honest opinions. When I hear someone from my staff say, "I’m not so sure that’s a good idea…" it’s music to my ears. Their honest opinions have helped us all to make better decisions and to avoid mistakes. 

Respect others above all else.
If you believe this, you will strive to treat each person with as much respect as you show to the big wigs at the top of the organizational food chain. Take time to listen to your employees’ concerns and ask about their families. Give them the same attention as your customers with big checkbooks. Care about their success and they will take care to help you with yours. 

Act with consistency to build trust and security.
You need to be a rock. When deadlines are looming and stress is gushing out of everyone’s pores, the people around you will take their cues from the tone you set. If you freak out, things will only get worse. When I hear people describe their leader as "moody" or "difficult to approach" or "volatile," I know that leader is surrounded by a bunch of skittish, gun-shy people. The leader must remain calm and controlled and provide leadership. I think of it like a duck rapidly swimming across a pond. You look calm floating on the surface of the water, but you’re paddling like hell underneath. 

Appreciate little things and you’ll get big things.
You can’t pay people enough for the things you expect from them every day. You can’t afford it. The only currency you have to give them is your appreciation. Notice when they work through their lunch hour. Comment when they’ve improved something, no matter how small. Pay attention when they go out of their way. 

Embody the vision and mission of your work.
You need to live it and breathe it. As you make decisions, consciously mention how those decisions will support the vision and mission of the company. When you delegate work, use the opportunity to connect what employees are doing to the goals of the company. Talk about it in meetings. Involve as many people as you can when you develop business strategies and action plans. When you hear people talking about it and see them using it to guide their own decision making, you know you’re making progress.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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