Leadership: O.E. lædan “cause to go with one, lead,” causative of liðan ” – to go in advance
The Results Leader defines, “leadership” as, “the choices we make to inspire others to take positive, decisive courses of action.”
Just so we’re on track here, allow me to take each of the points in that sentence and further explain them:
“The choices we make …” Virtually all behaviors are choices. We make choices every day. You and I choose to be productive, choose to be satisfied, or choose to be effective. Likewise we choose to be angry, choose to be unmotivated or choose to be ineffective. We cannot escape the personal accountability inherent in producing the results we find in our lives. We can deny it, yet, we cannot escape it.
(Should you ever want to view a microcosm of disgusting proofs of the consistent lack of acceptance of personal accountability – the denial-and-blame phenomenon – please take initiative to read the periodic “decertification” summaries from your own State. You may see a theme therein that should not be lost on you.)
While I am on the topic of accountability, a definition seems in order. The word comes from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of computare (to calculate), which in turn derived from putare (to reckon). It originally related to the world of finance (hence, we have “accountants”).
The Results Leader defines accountability as: the personal obligation an individual has to self, another individual or group of individuals (a.k.a., a team) to produce an agreed upon, meaningful result.
I have learned that it is a high, personal honor to accept obligations to others to produce agreed-upon, meaningful outcomes. It makes me feel good to be able to do what I said I would do. Following through on personal commitments is the relationship I choose to have with family members and friends and I certainly expect them to reciprocate. In my relationship with customers, it is represented in the tagline for my firm: “Our most important results are yours.
Yet, before we can accept such an honor in our relationships with others, we must first honor ourselves – through eliminating all self-deceit.
We must replace all self-deceit with true, honest self-awareness. We must replace lying to ourselves about who we are and our motivations and reasons for the choices we make with consistently and honestly telling ourselves the absolute truth about all matters. True leaders do so, even when the process is anticipated to be uncomfortable. We must do so even when it means giving up our old, deceitful, dysfunctional selves – comfortable though they were and are.
Having learned early in life how to make it easy and convenient to lie to myself, it was all the easier and convenient to lie to others. I am not proud to relate that there were many, many times in my life’s past when I was deeply deceitful to myself – lying to myself about any prospective consequences of my choices and about how others perceived the consequences of my choices in their own lives.
With each occurrence, I got better at it! Over time, I found it ever easier to conveniently exempt myself from accountability for the negative consequences of my own, self-destructive attitudes and behavior. With each occurrence, I found it easier to justify dysfunctional, broken or abandoned relationships while conveniently blaming the break on others. I found it easier to justify anger, spite, denial and a host of other toxic thinking. I was, and am, an expert in dysfunctional behavior.
I am convinced that when you can suspend your conscience, everything else is easy.
Some will try to slide of personal accountability by announcing, “Well, Steve, some of the negative things I and others do are just ‘human nature.’” In my mind, such self-deceit ranks right up there with a few who would like me to believe their dysfunctional, destructive choices are “cute.”
Both are self-defeating. Both are lying to self. Both undermine the trust others hope to place in us.
“Human nature” is more primordial than the kinds of behavior choices it is going to take to consistently demonstrate true leadership. It is human nature that when cold we find a way to get warm. It is human nature that when hungry, we find a way to secure food. It is human nature that when we are tired, we sleep; when we are thirsty, we drink.
To attempt to justify the results of faulty learning by calling it “human nature” is simply lying to one’s self.
As we proceed through these notions, please consider ten, simple, behaviors I present here at random:
1. I chose to purchase this book. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice.” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
2. I chose the job I have. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
3. I chose the home I live in. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
4. I chose to have the credit rating I have. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
5. I chose the hours I work. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
6. I chose to consider making different, more effective choices. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
7. I chose my friends and acquaintances. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
8. I chose whether to get along with (insert a name: _____________________).(Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
9. I chose the agency I work in. “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
10. I chose to complete this list. (Rate Your Reason: “I Agree, I made the choice” – Or, “It Just Happened” Or, “Someone Forced Me To Do It – Or, “It Was Human Nature”)
Not surprisingly, you should have rated, “I Agree, I made the choice,” on each of the ten items, above.
Yet, there are those who would have us conveniently overlook the choice they made to take this job, for these wages and benefits, with this work schedule, reporting to this person of rank, doing these tasks at this time, within these policies and procedures in the hopes that we’ll agree that they are victims of circumstances. Simultaneously, they tend to be the same people who will tell you that they are “fiercely independent.” To them I say, “Make up your mind. You cannot have it both ways.”
Choices. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi noted, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In my view, that puts the accountability squarely upon your shoulders for the conditions – good, bad, indifferent – that you find in your life.
I believe that if you do not like your job, you really only have two options: change the job or change jobs. Yet, do not waste my time making up your mind. And, so long as you work here, you must have accepted the personal obligation to do your part in making this place as healthy and productive as possible.
Or, as I tell some of the more quarrelsome employees of customer agencies, “If you signed your name on the back of your paycheck when you deposited it in the bank last week, I believe that is ongoing, tangible documentation that you have agreed to follow the rules around here.”
The quality of the culture within your organization is a reflection of the attitudes, behaviors and decisions of everyone associated with your organization – including yours. The reality is, if you are there, you are an active participant – either through omission or commission. I am decidedly indifferent with any employee who complains about workplace conditions without accepting their own role in creating, perpetuating or allowing those conditions or who chooses simply to complain.
You show me a chronic complainer in the workplace and I will show you a low producer; you show me a low producer and I will show you someone who is screaming, “I do not want to be here!” People who choose to be sarcastic, cynical or other negative, toxic attitudes and behaviors actually accomplish some interesting things: they tend to marginalize themselves, few others take them seriously and fewer trust them.
After reading this section, like it or not – accept it or not – from this day forward, if your organization is broken, toxic or otherwise frustrating to you, you only have yourself to hold to account. I venture to state that if it is still broken after you have read this book and participated in the exercise of thinking, you caused it.
When you accept the the honor of a personal obligation – to yourself and to others – to have a positive impact on the fabric of your agency’s culture, you can have an amazing impact on your personal satisfaction, your own job satisfaction, the satisfaction of your co-workers and the satisfaction of your agency’s constituents.
I have learned that there is truly a very short list of choices I need to make every day. When I awaken each morning, I know that I must:
1. Consistently tell the truth to myself and all others;
2. Genuinely love my wife and family;
3. Humbly remember why they love me;
4. Honorably pay my bills on time;
5. Respectfully attend to the expectations of my customers; and
6. Consciously balance among self, home, work and play.
Expending energy on anything outside that list is probably an impediment to progress and is, most certainly, a tragic and avoidable waste of the precious, ever-diminishing time I have this time around.
In fact, the mission of The Results Group, Ltd. is:
“Tell the truth. Provide Strategic Advantage To Our Clients. Make Money For Ourselves And Our Results Affiliates. Go Fly Fishing.”
Every choice I make in the business world is grounded in one or more of those things; they are much, much larger and much, much more important than Steve.
When you read the section, “What Co-Workers Expect From Us,” please rate yourself on your personal choices compared to what thousands of employees have told me they expect from those whom they would follow.
The second point in our definition of the word “leadership” is: “To inspire …”: I related an explanation for “inspiration” in a separate article. The bottom line is, I do not want people to do things for you because you “command” them or “demand” that they comply. You should be very concerned about the belief systems of people who would blindly follow such commands and demands. You should not trust them for a moment. I would be very afraid of such people because it is not whether they will turn against you, it is when.
I want people to do things for you because you asked … and because, through your example, you have inspired them – inflamed them – to be more than they would have been without your example. I want your personal example to be of such stellar integrity and quiet, enthusiastic professionalism that people will naturally gravitate toward and within your sphere of inspiration. In order to inspire other people, it seems to me that you must earn the strategic advantage of their trust – the benefit of their doubts, as it were.
The third point in our definition of the word “leadership” is: “Others …” Those “others” must include your subordinates, your co-workers, your own supervisor; people inside this agency and people outside this agency. Others must include elected officials and those who may become elected officials; appointed officials and those who may become appointed officials. “Others” must include your neighbors, their children, their parents and their neighbors.
And, the last point in our definition of the word, “leadership” is: “To take positive, decisive courses of action …” For the most part, people just want to know it is “o.k.” I am convinced that the average person truly wants to go to work, do a good job, feel pride in the quality of what they accomplish, go home at the end of the shift, kiss their families and feel safe.
Keep in mind that even sarcastic, cynical, disgruntled employees can sometimes “inspire others” to take action. I would personally be afraid of those whom they might so negatively inspire. Yet, true leadership, “inspires others to take positive, decisive courses of action.” There is a big difference.
Suffice it to note, for now, that positive, decisive courses of action – and effective behavior choices – are fundamental symptoms of a healthy, nurturing, well-cultivated organizational culture.
(c) Stephen L. Kent