Lead by example, with honesty and inspiration

May 17, 2018 By    

Effective leaders are a key driver to business success. Photo: iStock.com/EtiAmmos; gustavofrazao

Last month, I discussed a topic that keeps many leaders up at night – coaching and leadership. I believe this topic deserves more attention, which is why I am expanding on it here.

Effective leaders are a key driver to business success. They affect all of your employees, managers and especially your bottom line. In my April column, I talked about “windshield time” and informal coaching with employees. Did you schedule any quality time with your team?

Your memorable ‘leader’ moment

Here’s one of mine. I was a fast-food manager “in training.” My boss, the franchise owner, was walking me through the restaurant and explaining what he expected from me.

As we walked through the seating area, there was a piece of paper on the floor. When we both walked past the paper, my boss stopped and said to me, “You saw that piece of paper, right?” I did. He said, “Let me tell you what a leader would have done. A leader would have stopped and picked up that paper.” He asked me if I knew why. Of course, we wanted to keep the restaurant clean, but it was also about setting an example for the employees. “A leader would pick up the piece of paper every single time,” he told me. “If you don’t set the example and be responsible for the outcomes, you will not be followed and looked upon as a leader.”

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that define us as leaders.

Honesty in leaders

I consider honesty to be an important leadership trait and I believe people in leadership positions intend to be honest. People want to follow an honest leader.

Years ago, many employees assumed their leadership was honest, simply because of the authority of their position. With modern scandals that are now the norm, especially in politics, this is no longer true.

One of the most frequent places where leaders miss an opportunity to display honesty is in handling mistakes. Much of a leader’s job is to try new things and refine the ideas that don’t work. However, many leaders want to avoid failure to the extent that they don’t admit when something did not work.

When you land your leadership role, you need to assume people will think you are a little dishonest until you can prove them wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes, but if you don’t fess up to them, you will lose credibility with your team, which can be career suicide.

Inspiring your team

People want to be inspired. In fact, there is a whole class of people who will follow an inspiring leader – even when the leader has no other qualities.

Being inspiring is usually just a matter of communicating clearly and with passion. Being inspiring means telling people how your organization is going to change the world. Steve Jobs recruited the CEO of Pepsi by asking him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world?”

Being inspiring means showing people the big picture and helping them understand how their part fits into that picture.

Storytelling is an excellent way to inspire people. Stories can be examples from your prior jobs, family and customers. Stories can help you vividly illustrate what you are trying to communicate and help you connect with your employees on an emotional level.

Learning to be inspiring is not easy, particularly for individuals lacking in charisma, but it can be learned. Take note of people who inspire you and analyze the way they communicate. Look for ways to passionately express your ideas and vision. A small investment in effort and awareness will give you a significant improvement in this leadership trait.

I hope you think about your leadership style and the lessons you’ve learned over the years. Think about how you identify with your team, what leadership skills you possess and where you might need a little coaching. And remember to get out there and spend some “windshield time” with your team.

Ask Cathy Wallace of San Isabel Services Propane in Pueblo West, Colorado,about employee-related issues.

The Quote of the Month “The difference between a good leader and a great leader is humility.”

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