Part 1 of this series outlined the Five C’s of leadership (Character, Consistency, Commitment, Communication, & Creativity), and featured a quick and dirty character assessment. Now that we’ve outlined why it’s important to be someone worth following, let’s dig into how to make the most of your leadership opportunity. In life and in leadership, consistency is key. I’d be willing to say consistency will solve 90% of your problems in life. The other 10% can be solved by taking the bull by the horns and doing something. Learning to be consistent in both your actions and reactions shows a level of emotional intelligence and discipline that will be a defining characteristic of your leadership if executed properly.
The caveat to consistency solving 90% of your problems is that if you are consistently making poor choices, it will create 90% of your problems. We’ve all seen it; people consistently doing things that hurt them in the long run. For example, we all know someone who is phenomenal at making excuses or someone who would “be late to their own funeral”. They’re consistent, but in the wrong actions.
As leaders, we must learn to be consistent in the right areas. Consistently listening, consistently learning, and consistently growing. This can be challenging for some high performers as they can become victims of information overload. They try to implement everything they read or learn and it muddies the waters when it comes to their execution. Great leaders build processes and make incremental changes. They take in new information, digest the information, then apply pieces and continuously monitor the outcomes. If a new tactic doesn’t produce the results they want or changes another part of their fundamental processes, it’s not a fit for them. At the end of the day, great leaders know who they are, what they’re about, and are not easily swayed.
Perception is reality. That common phrase is thrown around often in today’s social media age, and I believe leaders can use this to their advantage. Model the behavior you want prevalent in your culture. Model it so often it becomes both perception and reality.
Social media can be a great tool to hold yourself accountable to modeling your desired behaviors. Want your team to be comfortable being vulnerable? Show yourself in an uncomfortable position; make a post about going rock climbing for the first time and how terrible you were at it. With social media, this can take some of the stage fright out of being vulnerable directly in front of your team until you’re more comfortable.
If open and honest feedback is something you want your team to participate in it, offer yourself up first. Take surveys and request feedback from team members or staff about where you can improve or what you can do to help them be more successful. Once you collect this feedback, choose some action items and begin to execute. You are now modeling that you: 1.) value feedback 2.) are open to change 3.) are willing to grow yourself.
What behaviors in your culture are rewarded? How are you rewarding them? These are two important questions for leaders to ask. As a leader, you must set the standard by living it yourself. Many leaders become removed from the daily experience of their subordinates. This happens naturally as responsibilities grow from assistant to directors. It is important to keep a pulse on the daily demands being placed on your people, and reward those who are performing above the standard. The rewards for elite performance and the repercussions for poor performance must be consistent and predictable (to a degree) throughout the culture.
Nobody likes being around someone who is unpredictable. As a leader it is your role to be the constant not the variable in people’s lives. They need to trust and know that you will react the same way to situations of the same degree regardless of the day. Consistency in your reactions to events shows the ability to focus on the process and the discipline to not be swayed by emotionally charged irrational behavior. Growing this skill requires a high level of self-awareness. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and formulate a game plan for how you will react when your emotions are not at baseline. A great example of this in practice occurred when Brad Stevens led Butler to the Final Four in 2010. Butler was in multiple close games, and when big shots were hit the camera panned to Stevens. He stood on the sideline, stoic, already moving on to the next possession. Make or miss, Stevens’ reaction was the same. Next. How can we expect to lead when the stakes are high such as in the NCAA tournament if we can’t even refocus to lead a meeting because we dropped our coffee coming into the building and allowed it to put us in a negative headspace for the entire day?
On a fundamental level, humans want to feel both connected and safe. We are hardwired in our DNA to prioritize these things. People within our organizations want to know that vulnerable actions such as voicing their opinion, taking risks, or receiving feedback will be met in a way that makes them feel valued and safe. This does not mean we have to create a soft environment, but it does mean that our reaction to people within our staff or team showing vulnerability has to be received positively and never be punished.
As a leader, the most valuable currency we have among our followers is trust. That can only be built through consistency. Consistency in both action and reaction. In simpler terms, show up and be the same person, every damn day.
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