A leader’s success is dependent on how he is perceived by the people he needs to follow him. Here’s how not to blow it.
Each year CEO’s are ousted, educational leaders fall to no-confidence votes, and political figures are booted at the ballot box. Most always it is because they have unwittingly compromised their leadership integrity. And while high-profile firings catch the attention of media outlets, leaders on all levels are putting their reputations and their organizations at-risk every day.
Consider leadership integrity social proof for leaders, and consider a productive, successful team evidence of a leader’s social influence. Leadership integrity is that part of you that people want to follow. When you possess leadership integrity, people trust your decisions. They understand you have a vision, and because of your positive influence they take ownership in the plan, the process, and the product. Solid as steel your leadership is cohesive and coherent.
Got proof? Got influence? Are you leadership steel? Check yourself, and avoid these three pitfalls certain to undermine the leadership integrity of the unwary.
Pitfall #1: Sowing Mistrust.
Trust in the workplace and in general is scarce these days. There was a time when most people trusted others until given a reason not to trust. Unfortunately, today most people live by trusting no one until trust has been earned. The problem with that mentality is that it’s very difficult to forge effective relationships and build trust with others if you don’t display or give away a little trust and vulnerability yourself.
Believe it or not, people connect authenticity with vulnerability. Leadership research conducted at Seattle University confirms that leaders who are vulnerable and humanize themselves through humor even self-deprecating humor build relationships and trust. At the same time, we build trust when we go out on a limb and trust team members with information, with a new assignment, with something that matters. An atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion makes it difficult to accomplish daily tasks let alone the mission of the organization. Mistrust comes in many forms, and most often reveals itself through the menace of micromanagement. A leader who micromanages or data mines minutiae is actually sending the message “I don’t trust you to know or to do your job.” Are you authentic? Are you vulnerable? Are you building relationships?
Pitfall #2: Modeling Inconsistency.
One of the most damaging traits any leader can possess is inconsistency. Inconsistency in our message, in our relationships, or through perceived or purposeful favoritism is not only unprofessional but can emotionally sabotage your team. If others witness a leader’s unwillingness to walk the walk, they see them essentially thumbing a nose at expectations, rules, or policies. Even worse is the leader who deflects responsibility altogether. To be sure, a level of delegation is just part of leadership, it’s often smart and necessary, but the team needs to witness their leader working just as hard as they are asked to work. Do you do what you say you’ll do? Do you share the team work ethic? Consistency in relationships and work ethic goes a long way. Are you present? Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, it causes minds to wonder where you are and whether or not you care.
Pitfall #3: Weak or Inconcise Communication
Leaders who aren’t listening are not leading. Dishonesty, false flattery, wishy-washy double-talk, and avoidance are all signals that your leadership suffers from poor communication. Are you honest? Is your message consistent from person to person? If you want to gain or maintain respect, show strength and stand up for your team and behind your decisions unless of course you find you’ve made a mistake and need to correct it. Admitting fault is also strength. Leaders possess confidence and candor, and leaders never throw people under the bus.
Preserve and protect that part of you people want to follow. Make your Leadership integrity just as vital to your toolbox as social or emotional intelligence—imagine leadership integrity the invisible thread that binds them together. You simply cannot afford to ignore your personal integrity or your leadership integrity. People care about character, and they need you to be the mindful you are the foundation of the team. No one wants to follow a leadership charlatan or one that buckles under pressure.