Encouraging employees to embrace leadership roles shapes an organization
As I share in my book, “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning,” successful relationships, whether personal or professional, are heavily dependent on recognition that each of us is responsible for managing our half of a relationship, and our half only. I’m convinced the true value of both understanding The Leadership Pledge and putting it into play requires accepting those disciplines that are critical in all relationships.
As a reminder, it starts with recruiting talented performers who have a high probability of being successful, providing them with the tools to do their job, telling them what we expect, and sharing honest and meaningful feedback.
Last month we discussed personal accountability and responsibility as the fifth discipline of The Leadership Pledge and the difficulty of measuring success in this area. I shared with you the three-legged stool that defines those criteria as trust, commitment and loyalty.
It bears repeating that whether the other person in a relationship is an employee, a customer, a peer, a supplier, a life partner or your teenage child, you cannot ask for trust if you are not willing to give it. Remember, trust only happens when we are transparent, candid and keep our word. And, by the way, when we display that type of honesty in a relationship, we have the right to expect it in return.
As we discuss commitment as the second leg of the stool, it’s important to recognize that it rarely comes without reciprocity. It comes from feeling necessary. By giving employees a sense of purpose and encouraging them to embrace a leadership role, we provide them with the opportunity to help shape the organization. The strength of the leader’s commitment unleashes the power of the team.
With commitment as the second piece of accepting accountability and responsibility, we must recognize that while it’s reasonable to expect people to embrace commitment, it’s a personal choice. There exists a delicate balance between expecting commitment from our employees as leaders. (By our definition and recognizing Truth No. 8, commitment is not about how a person performs but if they perform to the best of their ability every day for the rest of their lives.)
I’m convinced we can trace this lack of understanding of personal commitment to the obsession with winning at all costs that I have repeatedly discussed throughout this series. If nothing else good comes out of the mess that has been created by this unparalleled greed we are witnessing in the world today, it’s the revelation that leaders must recognize that attempting to impose their will on others by trying to change, influence, cajole and intimidate employees into sharing a commitment of winning at all costs without respect for their personal dignity is a dead-end street.
Not recognizing commitment as a personal choice got me into a lot of trouble back in 1981. Attempting to influence our employees to share the same obsession with winning that I had, I was certain I could convince our people to accept my misguided definition of commitment.
The most painful lesson of that experience was, in the end, that I influenced no one and was hurting the people around me that I cared about the most.
While searching for a better understanding of winning (success), I began to observe athletes, salespeople, leaders, parents and numerous others that exhibited personal commitment to be the best they could be. It became obvious the great differentiator was courage. The Olympic motto says it best. “Ask not only for victory, ask for courage. For if you can endure, you bring honor not only to yourself, you bring honor to all of us.” Courage is about endurance.
Dorothy Bernard said courage is “fear that has said its prayers.” Patton said courage is “fear holding a minute longer.” Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in one of his letters from the Birmingham jail. He wrote, “The true measure of the man is not where he stands in time of comfort or convenience but rather where he stands in time of challenge and controversy.”
Not being afraid to fail, as I stated in the last chapter, is a precursor to commitment. Once we acknowledge uncompromised standards of excellence, the only question remaining is how committed we are to the end result. The relentless pursuit to which we must ultimately commit defines whether we have truly accepted accountability.
When we assess whether we are accountable and responsible for what we do everyday, the first question we should ask ourselves is, “Can we be trusted?”
The second question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we committed to be the best we can be every day, every week, every month, every year for the rest of our lives?” Do our actions echo our intentions? It’s a question we must ask ourselves each and everyday.
Pete Luongo is retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., Leader, Lecturer, Public Speaker and Author of “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning”. Reach him at email@example.com.
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