Leadership is about managing transitions. For example, if you go to the gym and you work out and you come back, and you look in the mirror to see what difference it has made, what change will you see? Nothing. And if you go to the gym the next day and you come back and you look in the mirror, what difference will you see? Nothing.
The short-term results cannot be measured in a way that proves that they are effective. The risk is that we take the easy option and quit. But, if you fundamentally believe that you are doing the right things, in the right way, you stick with it. Like in a relationship “I bought her flowers and I wished her a happy birthday, and she doesn’t show she loves me”, the easy option is to stop buying flowers. But that’s not what happens if you believe in the relationship.
If you are training to get fit, you commit yourself to an act of service and to a set of behaviours because you believe in what you are doing. Of course, you can screw up – it is far too easy to eat too much chocolate and cake. But you know that if you stick to doing the right things over time, you will start to get into shape.
But it is more than one behaviour that makes a difference. It is a consistent set of inter-related behaviours. If you go to the dentist twice a year, your teeth will probably fall out. If you go to the dentist twice a year and brush your teeth twice a day, every day for two minutes, your teeth will last a lot longer. It is the consistency that is important, and it is the more mundane acts that make a big difference. Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes doesn’t really help, unless you do it every day, twice a day.
Going to the gym for 9 hours does not get you into shape but working out every day for 20 minutes will help you get into shape.
Leadership is the same. It is easy to measure leadership through intensity. To have a conference or a two day off-site; invite a group of inspirational speakers; give everybody praise and a reward and those things are all great. But they can be like going to the dentist without brushing your teeth every day.
With great leadership there is no single event or behaviour that makes your team follow and trust you. It is an accumulation of lots and lots of little things, that anyone by themselves may seem innocuous. Whilst many people look at the big audacious elements, it is consistency across the little things that really matters.
My father was a parachuter in the special forces, and he says his test for leadership is, and I love this, when someone asks how their day is going do they actually care about the answer. If they do, people will tell them when things are not good, and they will listen and try to help. Too often when asked “How are you?” people just say they are OK, even if they are not.
In business it is easy to have a vision that people share, but if you really want to have a strong corporate culture this comes from great leadership: leaders consistently doing the right things in the right way at the right time. When they show this commitment then their teams will go the extra mile for their colleagues, which is driven by a sense of belonging.
Great leadership is when leaders continue to do the right things consistently in challenging times. Great leadership is retaining an absolute belief in and devotion for the people who have committed their lives to this enterprise, irrespective of how challenging the environment is. Great leadership is caring for the people that put their heart and sole into their work, whatever the circumstances.
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