This is the third in a long series of posts that will explain what I call The 6 Perspectives of Leadership™.
Find the other parts to this series HERE.
This series will lead up to a book-launch planned for the fall of 2018 for my upcoming book “The 6 Perspectives of Accountable Leadership.”
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There’s an old adage about leadership that goes something like this:
“Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing.”
So many people have said it, that I can’t find an original source. Abraham Lincoln, Peter Drucker, Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell, Stephen R. Covey, John Wooden… they’ve all said this or a version of this.
The idea here is that it takes more than just technically doing things correctly when trying to lead. But what is the “more?” That’s the part that recognizes that human beings are complicated, and have inherent value beyond words, policies, processes, employee identification numbers, etc. It’s the part that knows how to navigate those complications well.
When we see it, we call it INTEGRITY and CHARACTER.
The best definition of integrity I’ve seen comes from C. S. Lewis, when he said “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
The best definition of character I’ve heard comes from famed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, “[Don’t concern yourself with your reputation, because your reputation is what others think of you, and what others think is none of your business. Whereas, your character is what you truly know yourself to be.]” Wooden’s point is that character is the deep truth about ourselves, and it matters.
When we go about the process of leading others, there are a lot things we can do right or do wrong. But if we want to be the best leaders we can be, we need to go about those actions on a strong foundation; one of strong character, values, accountability and healthy relationships.
Let’s explore a little bit about this foundation, and why the parts of this foundation are absolutely critical.
In human relationships, our character acts as prime currency. Others allow us to influence them partly because they trust our character. One of the most effective ways to demonstrate character is to declare and act in accordance with our values.
To demonstrate your values to those you lead, a couple of things must happen:
1) You must define your values for yourself.
For example, some of mine are honesty, inclusion, and standing up for my people.
2) Tell your people what your values are.
This is done, very literally, by telling them. How you choose to tell them is up to you. But you might find it most effective to declare your values both publicly and privately, and early in the relationship so your people know what to expect, and hold you accountable to it.
I remember one of my previous leaders telling our team, publicly, “I will be honest with you, and I will advocate for you.” It was a powerful start to building this new team. Team members talked about how impressed they were with that public declaration. Then, a few days later, when I had my first one-on-one conversation with him, he repeated it and asked how he might be able to advocate for me.
3) Act in accordance with your declared values.
When that new supervisor asked how how he could advocate for me, I talked about how I felt I had missed an opportunity to negotiate for a better salary when I had been hired. Three weeks later, I had a raise! My desire to follow him wherever he went shot through the roof! He had proved to me that he meant it when he declared his values.
What are your values? If you don’t have an immediate and clear answer, you have some work to do.
The premise with this part of the foundation is simple and straightforward – you can’t lead if there aren’t people following you. Relationships are a required part of being a leader. And candidly, the health of those relationships has a direct correlation with your ability to lead each of your people.
So what defines a healthy relationship? I’m certain it’s a lot more than what will be listed here, but here’s a start:
Books have been written on this topic. I have written about this topic. There is a lot to unpack with “trust”, much more than is possible to cover in this article, so I offer up Stephen M.R. Covey’s definition.
Confidence in the character and competence of another. – (The Speed of Trust, Covey)
If you can inspire confidence in your character, as well as your ability to be effective in your own role, your chances of earning trust from your people are high. But, if you fail to inspire confidence in either of those two things, it will be impossible.
This is that part mentioned above, the “complicated humans” part.
As humans, it’s very important to us to feel understood, especially from those who wield power over our lives – just as our leaders do.
If you are a developing leader, one of the most critical abilities you need to develop is your ability to be empathetic to the conditions/lives of your people. If you don’t, your people will think you don’t care.
You can show empathy through listening and responding to the needs of your people – the needs of your people according to them. If you can’t, for whatever reason, a clear and transparent explanation will go a long way to maintaining your demonstration of empathy.
In the end, empathy is not about who or what is right or wrong, it’s about understanding their conditions from their perspective and demonstrating that understanding.
3) Effective communication
“Communication” is a big concept. It means many different things. Possibly, in the simplest terms, it might be described as “people sharing ideas with one another.”
“Effective communication” would be described in its simplest terms as “people sharing ideas with one another and getting it right.”
Becoming an effective communicator is a lifelong effort. The landscape is continually evolving. Every time there’s a new technology, that complicates the effort all over again. Every time there’s a new relationship, you have to develop a new set of habits that work for that specific relationship.
As a leader, it’s most important for you to accept responsibility for the effectiveness of communication within each relationship you have. You could choose to look at the responsibility as 50/50 between you and your follower, but that puts you in a position to be victim to their mistakes. If you choose full responsibility, then you choose to recognize their mistakes and then help them adjust. You no longer allow yourself the opportunity to be a victim.
How healthy are your relationships with those you lead?
As the leader, there is one critical choice you must make if you want to be the very best leader you can be: be accountable for all that you do and all that your people do.
It’s unfair. You’ll be choosing to be accountable for your people’s actions and results even though they are the ones doing those actions and delivering those results. AND you’re not asking them to be accountable for you. It seems way out of balance!
I don’t care if you think it’s unfair or out of balance. It’s a difference maker. The best leaders choose accountability for all whom they lead.
It’s hard. If it’s too hard for you, and if you can’t make this choice, then don’t be a leader. Your people deserve better.
Harsh talk? Yes – it is. But this is the perspective:
1) The leader inherently has greater power, including power over the lives of their people.
2) The people following are inherently bound by what the leader directs and provides.
3) All processes start at the leader.
4) Even followers who eventually step up and become leaders had to be given the chance by a previous leader.
5) Leaders who don’t choose accountability, choose to be a victim of their circumstances. (It’s one or the other, not both)
6) Leaders who choose accountability, don’t give up when others make mistakes, they get in there to help and protect their people and the organization.
I spent many years developing and helping to select leaders. Those who wanted to be leaders and promote, but who wouldn’t choose accountability, either weren’t selected for those promotions, or failed quickly in those promoted roles.
When it comes to leadership, accountability is the first test of the peter-principle.
Have you made the choice to be accountable? Or do you find yourself complaining about circumstances that you perceive to be outside of your influence?
Building your foundation
When you are a leader, and you choose to:
1) define, declare, and act in accordance with your values,
2) build healthy relationships with those you lead,
3) and be accountable for you and every one of your team members,
…you will have developed strong character and you will have a strong foundation.
It is from this foundation that you can wield your leadership skills to be your best for yourself, your people, your organization, and the community you serve.
This was Part 3 in a multi-part series that will teach and explain The 6 Perspectives of Accountable Leadership™.
Follow me to catch the upcoming posts where I explain in greater details what it means to build a foundation and lead from each of the perspectives. Look for upcoming posts on Mondays. Follow my business page, Derek Rey Consulting, LLC to find all of the 6 Perspectives blog posts archived.
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