Recently I was working with a high-level client and I provided him with a 360 review. I personally interviewed his employees, colleagues, and senior management to get an honest perspective on his leadership skills. At the end of a dozen interviews, I observed some revealing common threads that were woven into everyone’s perception of him. They all agreed that he was a great subject matter expert. They said he had a fun personality and was very results-oriented.
But they also shared the view that he lacked professional integrity. That flaw was exhibited by him in a variety of ways. He wasn’t staying true to the strategic vision he laid out, because he didn’t adapt as needed. He didn’t do things he promised to do. He never provided helpful, candid feedback, because he wanted everyone on his team to like him. Despite wanting them to like him, he didn’t trust them enough to give them the responsibility and freedom to do their jobs.
That was a pretty damaging assessment. But not an uncommon one, whether the leader is a corporate executive, a politician, or a celebrity. These days it seems like everywhere you look, all kinds of leaders have lost integrity in the eyes of employees, constituents, fans and the general public.
Here are a few strategies to maintain and build your integrity, which will develop internal confidence and decisiveness while ensuring you are respected by all.
1) Stick to Your Word
Teams will only follow your vision if they have faith in it and believe it will become reality. If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, they stop believing…and you lose the ability to show them a big picture plan and have them buy into it. That means you can no longer inspire them, because now your words are hollow.
I speak with lots of mid-level executives and hear them complain that the higher-ups in the organization always say that they’re going to do this and that. But they see no evidence of follow-through to implement those strategies. You should constantly review your stated goals and initiatives to make sure you are making visible, measurable progress to confirm that what you say will happen does actually happen.
2) Strategically Adapt Your Vision
Staying true to your vision may demand flexibility, in the face of difficult, unanticipated business conditions. You may encounter a new competitor or an economic downturn. You could face unexpected budget restrictions, a merger or acquisition, or be short on talent. Remember the quote, “We can’t adjust the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”Lose your integrity and you’ll lose your leadership influence, gravitas, and following. #leadership #executivepresence Click To Tweet
That’s why one of the greatest responsibilities of a leader is to be constantly learning and acquiring skills that can help you weather inevitable storms. When the seas are smooth, don’t rest on your laurels. Develop your leadership experience to the next level. Then, when the going gets tough, you can distinguish yourself by adapting to changing circumstances. Keep forging forward with solution-oriented vision and your troops will stay loyal to you because of your determination and resolve.
3) Candid Feedback is Always Best
Too many leaders mistakenly sugarcoat the conversation when providing employee performance feedback. Or they are too shy around clients, even when those clients can benefit from some straight talk. Leaders are afraid if they are honest, they’ll lose people. But what happens much more often is that those people leave, because they no longer trust your opinions and feedback.
Yours may not be the most popular idea at the table. But genuine leaders show courage in speaking their minds when it’s in the best interest of those they lead and serve. Trust me, when you master this kind of communication you are mastering the gravitas pillar of executive presence.
4) Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Leadership is a privilege you have to earn every day, by demonstrating that it’s not about you but is all about your team. Your role is to ensure their success, and forgetting that fact is the downfall of many otherwise qualified leaders. That means promoting their careers, and giving them full credit for their accomplishments. Leaders who focus on promoting their personal agendas to get promoted or increase their visibility never do.
That’s because the job of the leader is to make the team succeed as a cohesive unit. Every company wants leaders who can develop winning teams. Trust your team members, delegate responsibility to them, and lead them by giving them the support and resources that guarantee their success. If you do that, your own predictable promotions will be automatic and frequent.
The Bottom Line
I don’t care who you are or how up the chain of command you have climbed. Lose your integrity and you’ll lose your leadership influence, gravitas, and following. That’s a timeless truth you can take to the bank. Human history – including corporate history – is littered with the wreckage of leaders who ignored that fact and wound up incapable, impotent, and out of a job.
Sarah’s Leadership Application Principles
1) Have you recently benefited from a Gallup survey, 360 review, or other corporate assessment? Did you pledge changes to capitalize on the opportunities it revealed for your leadership improvement? If so, are you making that a top priority, and are you keeping your team updated on your progress?
2) If you haven’t had a candid review in a while, it may be overdue. What areas do you think you can benefit from developing or fine-tuning?
3) Are you being 100% truthful with your employees or clients about what you feel they need to do, in their best interest?
4) What are three things you can practice to help you do less micromanagement and more delegation?
Here are three key areas that many of my clients identify: Hold them more accountable. Be specific about what behavioral changes you want to see from them. Ask them what areas you control too much, that they feel you should let them take on with greater responsibility.
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