Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘personal credibility

Five Strategies to Build Trust

with 3 comments

smallgroup9

The actions and behaviors of individual leaders impact trust within the organization. Many fail to understand the elements of a trusting work atmosphere and the strategies used to build and establish a firm foundation for trust and leadership.

There are five key elements a leader must focus their efforts on to develop a comprehensive atmosphere of trust in their workplace. While the concept of trust implies participation by both leader and the people they deal with, including their superiors, associates, peers and employees, it must start with the individual leader. It is counterproductive for leaders to withhold their trust until they are able to trust the other party. In most cases trust is mutually developed by both parties and balanced by the commitment each brings to the relationship. Typically, employees and other individuals will reciprocate the trust placed in them by leaders.

As leaders attempt to build trust, they will experience reluctance in the form of employees who have felt betrayed by the organization in the past. Consequently, leaders must signal a change by making the first steps to initiate and demonstrate trust in their employees. Once employees see that a true change has occurred, they will begin to slowly form the bonds of trust needed for leaders to be effective.

Leaders who wish to establish a complete environment of trust with their superiors, associates, peers and employees must consider employing the following strategies:

Establish Professional and Personal Credibility

If leaders are credible, they are trusted and believable to their employees. Employees consider a credible leader to be one who does not advance a personal agenda but has the best interests of the organization and his or her employees at heart.

Employees and other individuals view credibility from differing perspectives. Often credibility can be confused with personal competence. If the leader is knowledgeable and possesses both personal expertise and experience, they are considered credible. Conversely, leaders who maintain positions in which they demonstrate professional incompetence exhibit a lack of professional credibility, with employees viewing their direction, judgment and leadership as suspect.

The other aspect is the leader’s own personal credibility. This involves the employee’s ability to personally trust what a leader says or does. An individual may possess professional credibility and not possess the personal credibility to lead the organization. Strategies leaders must apply to develop and foster personal credibility include:

  • Making themselves available to their employees and easy to talk with. Good leaders do not wait for their employees to approach them, but seek them out on a regular basis. Many will walk around and talk with each employee several times a day to discuss everyday concerns and issues. This proactive approach allows them to monitor the pulse of their organization while facilitating open communication with their employees. They instantly answer questions with straight responses and openly make their expectations of the organization and their employees known.
  • Trusting their employees to handle their jobs and responsibilities without regularly looking over their shoulders and micro-managing their activities.
  • Being completely reliable and always delivering on their promises and commitments without fail, enabling employees to know without question that they can count on the leader.

Fairness

Trust is built when employees know their leader is fair and consistent in his or her actions, decisions and judgments—no matter who is involved and what the circumstances.

Fairness is comprised of both equity and consistency. Leaders can use the following strategies to develop a strong sense of equity including:

  • Ensuring all employees are treated in the same manner.
  • Making sure all actions, judgments and decisions are fair to all parties concerned.
  • Avoiding any favoritism among employees, especially where rewards, recognition and promotions are concerned.

Effective leaders make certain their actions, judgments and decisions are consistent and not based upon specific circumstances. Only when leaders demonstrate consistency over time can they build trust with employees, who then know they will always be treated fairly.

Respect

Trust is built upon a foundation of mutual respect for one another. If respect is absent, trust can never be achieved. Leaders can develop and foster respect by:

  • Demonstrating a personal regard for individual employees’ experience, expertise, knowledge, insight and perspectives concerning their jobs.
  • Actively seeking feedback and employees’ insight, perspective and opinions regarding important decisions.
  • Actively involving employees in the decision making process.
  • Demonstrating appreciation for employees’ personal contributions to the success of the organization.
  • Providing the training, resources and support employees need to competently perform their jobs.
  • Demonstrating care and concern for employees’ lives outside of the workplace.

Pride

Trust is fostered and nurtured by a sense of mutual pride in the work, quality and accomplishments of the organization. This builds organizational cohesiveness that bonds all employees together and strengthens trust in all involved. As workplace cohesiveness increases, so does a sense of trust in the organization and its people. Everyone feels they are working together, and each can be trusted to fulfill his or her role and responsibilities.

Leaders can encourage the development of pride by using the following strategies:

  • Helping employees understand their individual role in the organization and how their efforts contribute to its success.
  • Helping them understand that they personally make a difference within the organization.
  • Exhorting employees to take satisfaction both in their organization’s accomplishments and its contributions to their community.

Comradery

Comradery is not normally associated with the concept of trust, yet it does contribute to the organizational cohesiveness established by trust. As cited above, the stronger the organizational cohesiveness, the stronger the bond between leaders and employees. All involved feel linked by common goals, experiences and successes. They have a sense that everyone is “in it together” and work as a unit rather than as individuals.

Leaders can use the following strategies to build comradery with their employees:

  • Creating a workplace where a common concern is demonstrated and employees feel they can “be themselves.”
  • Openly and regularly celebrating special events and mutual successes.
  • Consistently and openly recognizing, rewarding and celebrating individual successes in a warm and genuine manner.

Excerpt: Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI  2011) $16.95 USD

Related:

You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

You Are Judged By The Actions You Take

with 4 comments

Herb Kelleher - Southwest Airlines  (Alex Wong - Getty Images)

Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines (Alex Wong – Getty Images)

Of all the leaders surveyed, the great ones were individuals who consistently displayed their integrity and character. No matter what happened in their lives: adversity, controversies, failure and defeat, their character shined through. It established deep personal credibility with each of their constituencies, as well as all others that came into contact with them.

First and foremost, leaders are judged by the actions they take. Today’s high profile leaders are prominently visible to all of their key constituencies. They make speeches and presentations to employees, shareholders, financial analysts, and the public in general.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) exemplifies this. “He’s totally true to himself and totally consistent between his private life and his public life. He’s totally consistent between his public speeches and his private speeches. You could look at a speech that Herb gave to the annual shareholders meeting of 2002 and compare it to his message to the field in 1992 and compare it to a letter to employees in 1982 and find tremendous consistency in terms of adherence to core values. So the absolute adherence to extraordinarily high professional principles of ethical conduct and fair dealing, is just remarkable over time. So he built up a reservoir of credibility not only among employees but other people.”[1]

Many leaders may sound impressive, but simultaneously undermine their credibility since their actions fail to mirror their words. In some instances, leaders’ actions contradict their company’s mission statement, resulting in confusion within their organization. In either case, their personal actions become corrosive to the organizational culture, as well as their own individual credibility.

As a high profile leader, Carly Fiorina’s (Hewlett Packard) actions were highly scruntized and undermined her credibility. “Fiorina came in with a mandate of change, but didn’t make any effort to build trust between herself and the company. Indeed, she sullied her image by exalting herself without regard to her employees’ reactions. Buying a personal jet in front of a distrustful and alienated workforce is one example. Freezing employee salaries while giving herself and her executive ilk bonuses is another. Doing these things in light of nearly 18,000 employee dismissals (2003) is just plain callous.”[2]

Leaders’ actions set the tone for their organization, whether they realize it or not. They can either inspire or generate resentment in their employees. Fred Smith (FedEx) inspired his organization by setting a tone where all his employees felt they could share in the success of the company. He stated, “One of the biggest principles is that you’ve got to take action. Most large organizations reach a static point. They cannot take any action, because there are all types of barriers to doing so. There are institutionalized barriers that weren’t there when the company was considerably smaller. What changes is your knowledge and your appreciation of how to deal with those institutional barriers, to eliminate them or use them to your advantage in achieving those changes. There are myriad number of changes that have to take place in the management style for the company to continue growing.”[3]

“’Andy [Grove][Intel] has always been a teacher – often by example,’ says Ron Whittier, senior vice president in charge of content development… Yet I don’t think he wants to be remembered as a great visionary – but as someone who made things happen and created a great company.’”[4]

All constituencies expect leaders to be fair, just and consistent. Any perception of cronyism and the use of internal politics to develop an advantage for one individual or group generates unintended consequences, as these policies and actions are replicated at lower levels. Yet, for certain types of leaders, potential gains are too tempting not to employ these practices. Their focus on personal gain, however, becomes transparent to the rest of the organization. This destroys trust and channels of openness and honesty throughout the company. Fredrick Joseph (Drexel Burnham) created a dysfunctional culture when he ignored the unethical practices and securities violations of high-powered Michael Milken, and his creation of the junk bond business. The insider-trader scandals surrounding Milken ultimately led to the largest bankruptcy in Wall Street history at that time.

These actions hamper leaders’ abilities to instill their ideas, beliefs and values in others, and significantly hinder them when communicating sweeping strategies that are needed to move organizations forward. Rather than unite different factions, they splinter any existing unity, as different groups jockey for position. Leaders in this position typically tend to use their authority and power in a repressive rather than productive manner. It saps the company’s available resources and diminishes its productivity.

A notable and well-publicized example of this practice is Al Dunlap (Sunbeam). “In Dunlap’s presence, knees trembled and stomachs churned. Underlings feared the torrential harangue that Dunlap could unleash at any moment. At his worst, he became viciously profane, even violent. Executives said he would throw papers or furniture, bang his hands on his desk, and shout so ferociously that a manager’s hair would be blown back by the stream of air that rushed from Dunlap’s mouth. “Hair spray day” became a code phrase among execs, signifying a potential tantrum.”[5]

My research of some of the poorest performing leaders substantiated that many also made questionable and highly risky financial decisions that placed their companies at risk, and placed the well being of shareholders far above the interests of their customers.

“In the service of a quick buck, he [Al Dunlap – Sunbeam] imposed brutal pressure on honest people, placing their careers, incomes, health insurance, and pensions at stake. He made impossible, irrational demands that were ruinous to the long-term prosperity of companies. The leadership style he practiced was inconsistent with good business, thoughtful management, a strong economy….”[6]

Jon Huntsman (Huntsman Chemical) observed. “People often offer as an excuse for lying, cheating, and fraud that they were pressured into it by high expectations or that “everyone does it.” Some claim that it is the only way they can keep up. Those excuses sound better than the real reasons they choose the improper course: arrogance, power trips, greed, and lack of backbone, all of which are equal-opportunity afflictions.”[7]

The great leaders were committed to others and demanded excellence from all. They forged building blocks of growth and were proactive as they mastered execution of their plans within all levels of their organization. They demanded accountability on all levels and did not delegate this responsibility. They held themselves equally accountable, and adhered to the same standards as were established for the lowest level employee. This typically appealed to their personal sense of fairness.

“More than anyone, leaders should welcome being held accountable. Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than a willingness to take responsibility for what happens during his watch. One might add that nothing builds a stronger case for holding employees to a high standard than a boss who holds himself to even higher ones.”[8]

These leaders were passionate, and demonstrated a high level of personal drive and resilience. These factors made it possible to build emotional connections with key constituencies, especially needed during difficult periods.

Finally, one of the most notable distinctions of great leaders was found in their restraint and self-control. It inspired confidence in all key constituencies. A key example of this trait was the composure and stature James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) displayed during the Tylenol scare. His actions are attributed to saving that brand and securing the company’s impeccable reputation.

[1] Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (Zero Time Publishing, 2004)
[2] Knufken, Drea, 10 Reasons People Hate Carly Fiorina (Business Pundit) June 18, 2008
[3] Hafner, Katie, Fred Smith: The Entrepreneur Redux (Inc. Magazine, June 1, 1984)
[4] Sheridan John H., 1997 Technology Leader of the Year Andy Grove: Building an Information Age Legacy (Industry Week, April 19-21, 2010)
[5] Byrne, John A., Chainsaw (Harper Business, 1999, 2003) p 353-354
[6] Gallagher Bill, Once a Bum, Always a Bum (Niagara Falls Reporter, January 29, 2002)
[7] Huntsman, Jon M., Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2008) p 35
[8] Giuliani, Rudolph, Leadership (Hyperion, New York, 2002) p 70

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Leaders Are Judged By The Actions They Take

with one comment

Kelleher--William-Thomas-Cain-Getty-Images

Of all the leaders surveyed, the great ones were individuals who consistently displayed their integrity and character. No matter what happened in their lives: adversity, controversies, failure and defeat, their character shined through. It established deep personal credibility with each of their constituencies, as well as all others that came into contact with them.

First and foremost, leaders are judged by the actions they take. Today’s high profile leaders are prominently visible to all of their key constituencies. They make speeches and presentations to employees, shareholders, financial analysts, and the public in general.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) exemplifies this. “He’s totally true to himself and totally consistent between his private life and his public life. He’s totally consistent between his public speeches and his private speeches. You could look at a speech that Herb gave to the annual shareholders meeting of 2002 and compare it to his message to the field in 1992 and compare it to a letter to employees in 1982 and find tremendous consistency in terms of adherence to core values.

So the absolute adherence to extraordinarily high professional principles of ethical conduct and fair dealing, is just remarkable over time. So he built up a reservoir of credibility not only among employees but other people.”[1]

Many leaders may sound impressive, but simultaneously undermine their credibility since their actions fail to mirror their words. In some instances, leaders’ actions contradict their company’s mission statement, resulting in confusion within their organization. In either case, their personal actions become corrosive to the organizational culture, as well as their own individual credibility.

As a high profile leader, Carly Fiorina’s (Hewlett Packard) actions were highly scruntized and undermined her credibility. “Fiorina came in with a mandate of change, but didn’t make any effort to build trust between herself and the company. Indeed, she sullied her image by exalting herself without regard to her employees’ reactions.

Buying a personal jet in front of a distrustful and alienated workforce is one example. Freezing employee salaries while giving herself and her executive ilk bonuses is another. Doing these things in light of nearly 18,000 employee dismissals (2003) is just plain callous.”[2]

Leaders’ actions set the tone for their organization, whether they realize it or not. They can either inspire or generate resentment in their employees. Fred Smith (FedEx) inspired his organization by setting a tone where all his employees felt they could share in the success of the company.

He stated, “One of the biggest principles is that you’ve got to take action. Most large organizations reach a static point. They cannot take any action, because there are all types of barriers to doing so. There are institutionalized barriers that weren’t there when the company was considerably smaller. What changes is your knowledge and your appreciation of how to deal with those institutional barriers, to eliminate them or use them to your advantage in achieving those changes. There are myriad number of changes that have to take place in the management style for the company to continue growing.”[3]

“’Andy [Grove][Intel] has always been a teacher – often by example,’ says Ron Whittier, senior vice president in charge of content development… Yet I don’t think he wants to be remembered as a great visionary – but as someone who made things happen and created a great company.’”[4]

All constituencies expect leaders to be fair, just and consistent. Any perception of cronyism and the use of internal politics to develop an advantage for one individual or group generates unintended consequences, as these policies and actions are replicated at lower levels. Yet, for certain types of leaders, potential gains are too tempting not to employ these practices.

Their focus on personal gain, however, becomes transparent to the rest of the organization. This destroys trust and channels of openness and honesty throughout the company. Fredrick Joseph (Drexel Burnham) created a dysfunctional culture when he ignored the unethical practices and securities violations of high-powered Michael Milken, and his creation of the junk bond business. The insider-trader scandals surrounding Milken ultimately led to the largest bankruptcy in Wall Street history at that time.

These actions hamper leaders’ abilities to instill their ideas, beliefs and values in others, and significantly hinder them when communicating sweeping strategies that are needed to move organizations forward. Rather than unite different factions, they splinter any existing unity, as different groups jockey for position. Leaders in this position typically tend to use their authority and power in a repressive rather than productive manner. It saps the company’s available resources and diminishes its productivity.

A notable and well-publicized example of this practice is Al Dunlap (Sunbeam). “In Dunlap’s presence, knees trembled and stomachs churned. Underlings feared the torrential harangue that Dunlap could unleash at any moment. At his worst, he became viciously profane, even violent. Executives said he would throw papers or furniture, bang his hands on his desk, and shout so ferociously that a manager’s hair would be blown back by the stream of air that rushed from Dunlap’s mouth. “Hair spray day” became a code phrase among execs, signifying a potential tantrum.”[5]

My research of some of the poorest performing leaders substantiated that many also made questionable and highly risky financial decisions that placed their companies at risk, and placed the well being of shareholders far above the interests of their customers.

“In the service of a quick buck, he [Al Dunlap – Sunbeam] imposed brutal pressure on honest people, placing their careers, incomes, health insurance, and pensions at stake. He made impossible, irrational demands that were ruinous to the long-term prosperity of companies. The leadership style he practiced was inconsistent with good business, thoughtful management, a strong economy….”[6]

Jon Huntsman (Huntsman Chemical) observed. “People often offer as an excuse for lying, cheating, and fraud that they were pressured into it by high expectations or that “everyone does it.” Some claim that it is the only way they can keep up. Those excuses sound better than the real reasons they choose the improper course: arrogance, power trips, greed, and lack of backbone, all of which are equal-opportunity afflictions.”[7]

The great leaders were committed to others and demanded excellence from all. They forged building blocks of growth and were proactive as they mastered execution of their plans within all levels of their organization.

They demanded accountability on all levels and did not delegate this responsibility. They held themselves equally accountable, and adhered to the same standards as were established for the lowest level employee. This typically appealed to their personal sense of fairness.

“More than anyone, leaders should welcome being held accountable. Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than a willingness to take responsibility for what happens during his watch. One might add that nothing builds a stronger case for holding employees to a high standard than a boss who holds himself to even higher ones.”[8]

These leaders were passionate, and demonstrated a high level of personal drive and resilience. These factors made it possible to build emotional connections with key constituencies, especially needed during difficult periods.

Finally, one of the most notable distinctions of great leaders was found in their restraint and self-control. It inspired confidence in all key constituencies. A key example of this trait was the composure and stature James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) displayed during the Tylenol scare. His actions are attributed to saving that brand and securing the company’s impeccable reputation.

Related:

  1. Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership
  2. Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?
  3. Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

References:

  1. Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (Zero Time Publishing, 2004)
  2. Knufken, Drea, 10 Reasons People Hate Carly Fiorina (Business Pundit) June 18, 2008
  3. Hafner, Katie, Fred Smith: The Entrepreneur Redux (Inc. Magazine, June 1, 1984)
  4. Sheridan John H., 1997 Technology Leader of the Year Andy Grove: Building an Information Age Legacy (Industry Week, April 19-21, 2010)
  5. Byrne, John A., Chainsaw (Harper Business, 1999, 2003) p 353-354
  6. Gallagher Bill, Once a Bum, Always a Bum (Niagara Falls Reporter, January 29, 2002)
  7. Huntsman, Jon M., Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2008) p 35
  8. Giuliani, Rudolph, Leadership (Hyperion, New York, 2002) p 70

 

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

//

Personal Credibility is Anchored in Character and Integrity

with 2 comments

William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

Personal credibility is based upon a leader’s character and integrity and the actions and behaviors that stem from them. Far from perfect, many of the influential American leaders I surveyed possessed character flaws and displayed at times, questionable ethical behaviors. Yet their personal credibility remained intact.

So it is safe to ascertain that perfection is not humanly expected and attainable as a leader, but self-awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses is essential. It reflects both maturity and authenticity, which only then serves to enhance a leader’s personal credibility.

An observance of the absence of self-awareness resulted in a strong emergence of arrogance and hubris that diminished and ultimately destroyed credibility on all levels.

Obviously unless problematic or weak leaders make concerted efforts to change their character and integrity, they are remain unalterable. However leaders do have control over the actions, behaviors and decisions that influence and shape their personal credibility.

This once again involves self-awareness as well as comprehensive critical thinking abilities to examine the consequences of both their long and short-term actions. All leaders have choices, but the right choices demand a leader’s willingness and acquiescence.

Leaders must also be cognizant of their levels of personal credibility on all of their key constituencies. In the current environment where short-term profitability is emphasized, many leaders damage their credibility by only focusing on their shareholder expectations at the expense of their other constituencies.

My research demonstrates this can be fatal. The leaders listed Worst CEOs of All Time by Portfolio Magazine commonly practiced it. As evidenced within the Legitimacy Principles, this imbalance ultimately leads to a loss of validity.

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

What can we learn from these leader’s examples and apply to our lives? In summary, the following recommendations are suggested:

  1. Develop an awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses including a frank assessment of your character and personal levels of integrity.
  2. Determine how these affect your personal credibility.
  3. Identify what actions, decisions and behaviors you can change.
  4. Develop a habit of assessing the impact and consequences of your actions on your personal credibility.
  5. Change what you can, and manage and control what you can’t.
  6. Remember this is an evolutionary process and not a singular event. History shows that individuals evolved into becoming great leaders over the span of their entire careers. For many it was a struggle.

It is important to remember that no leader is an island onto oneself, who functions in isolation. Nor is the individual the first one to encounter problems associated with building his or her credibility. Universally, the leaders surveyed all struggled with this issue at one point or another in their careers.

Related:

Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership

An Accurate Predictor of Leadership Performance

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Eight Actions Determine If You Can Be Trusted

Adapted From: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Leaders Are Judged By The Actions They Take

with 2 comments

Herb-Kelleher - Founder of Southwest AirlinesPhoto by William-Thomas-Cain-Getty-Images

Herb-Kelleher – Founder of Southwest Airlines
Photo by William Thomas Cain-Getty Images

Of all the leaders surveyed, the great ones were individuals who consistently displayed their integrity and character. No matter what happened in their lives: adversity, controversies, failure and defeat, their character shined through. It established deep personal credibility with each of their constituencies, as well as all others that came into contact with them.

First and foremost, leaders are judged by the actions they take. Today’s high profile leaders are prominently visible to all of their key constituencies. They make speeches and presentations to employees, shareholders, financial analysts, and the public in general.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) exemplifies this. “He’s totally true to himself and totally consistent between his private life and his public life. He’s totally consistent between his public speeches and his private speeches. You could look at a speech that Herb gave to the annual shareholders meeting of 2002 and compare it to his message to the field in 1992 and compare it to a letter to employees in 1982 and find tremendous consistency in terms of adherence to core values.

So the absolute adherence to extraordinarily high professional principles of ethical conduct and fair dealing, is just remarkable over time. So he built up a reservoir of credibility not only among employees but other people.”[1]

Many leaders may sound impressive, but simultaneously undermine their credibility since their actions fail to mirror their words. In some instances, leaders’ actions contradict their company’s mission statement, resulting in confusion within their organization. In either case, their personal actions become corrosive to the organizational culture, as well as their own individual credibility.

As a high profile leader, Carly Fiorina’s (Hewlett Packard) actions were highly scruntized and undermined her credibility. “Fiorina came in with a mandate of change, but didn’t make any effort to build trust between herself and the company. Indeed, she sullied her image by exalting herself without regard to her employees’ reactions.

Buying a personal jet in front of a distrustful and alienated workforce is one example. Freezing employee salaries while giving herself and her executive ilk bonuses is another. Doing these things in light of nearly 18,000 employee dismissals (2003) is just plain callous.”[2]

Leaders’ actions set the tone for their organization, whether they realize it or not. They can either inspire or generate resentment in their employees. Fred Smith (FedEx) inspired his organization by setting a tone where all his employees felt they could share in the success of the company.

He stated, “One of the biggest principles is that you’ve got to take action. Most large organizations reach a static point. They cannot take any action, because there are all types of barriers to doing so. There are institutionalized barriers that weren’t there when the company was considerably smaller. What changes is your knowledge and your appreciation of how to deal with those institutional barriers, to eliminate them or use them to your advantage in achieving those changes. There are myriad number of changes that have to take place in the management style for the company to continue growing.”[3]

“’Andy [Grove][Intel] has always been a teacher – often by example,’ says Ron Whittier, senior vice president in charge of content development… Yet I don’t think he wants to be remembered as a great visionary – but as someone who made things happen and created a great company.’”[4]

All constituencies expect leaders to be fair, just and consistent. Any perception of cronyism and the use of internal politics to develop an advantage for one individual or group generates unintended consequences, as these policies and actions are replicated at lower levels. Yet, for certain types of leaders, potential gains are too tempting not to employ these practices.

Their focus on personal gain, however, becomes transparent to the rest of the organization. This destroys trust and channels of openness and honesty throughout the company. Fredrick Joseph (Drexel Burnham) created a dysfunctional culture when he ignored the unethical practices and securities violations of high-powered Michael Milken, and his creation of the junk bond business. The insider-trader scandals surrounding Milken ultimately led to the largest bankruptcy in Wall Street history at that time.

These actions hamper leaders’ abilities to instill their ideas, beliefs and values in others, and significantly hinder them when communicating sweeping strategies that are needed to move organizations forward. Rather than unite different factions, they splinter any existing unity, as different groups jockey for position. Leaders in this position typically tend to use their authority and power in a repressive rather than productive manner. It saps the company’s available resources and diminishes its productivity.

A notable and well-publicized example of this practice is Al Dunlap (Sunbeam). “In Dunlap’s presence, knees trembled and stomachs churned. Underlings feared the torrential harangue that Dunlap could unleash at any moment. At his worst, he became viciously profane, even violent. Executives said he would throw papers or furniture, bang his hands on his desk, and shout so ferociously that a manager’s hair would be blown back by the stream of air that rushed from Dunlap’s mouth. “Hair spray day” became a code phrase among execs, signifying a potential tantrum.”[5]

My research of some of the poorest performing leaders substantiated that many also made questionable and highly risky financial decisions that placed their companies at risk, and placed the well being of shareholders far above the interests of their customers.

“In the service of a quick buck, he [Al Dunlap – Sunbeam] imposed brutal pressure on honest people, placing their careers, incomes, health insurance, and pensions at stake. He made impossible, irrational demands that were ruinous to the long-term prosperity of companies. The leadership style he practiced was inconsistent with good business, thoughtful management, a strong economy….”[6]

Jon Huntsman (Huntsman Chemical) observed. “People often offer as an excuse for lying, cheating, and fraud that they were pressured into it by high expectations or that “everyone does it.” Some claim that it is the only way they can keep up. Those excuses sound better than the real reasons they choose the improper course: arrogance, power trips, greed, and lack of backbone, all of which are equal-opportunity afflictions.”[7]

The great leaders were committed to others and demanded excellence from all. They forged building blocks of growth and were proactive as they mastered execution of their plans within all levels of their organization.

They demanded accountability on all levels and did not delegate this responsibility. They held themselves equally accountable, and adhered to the same standards as were established for the lowest level employee. This typically appealed to their personal sense of fairness.

“More than anyone, leaders should welcome being held accountable. Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than a willingness to take responsibility for what happens during his watch. One might add that nothing builds a stronger case for holding employees to a high standard than a boss who holds himself to even higher ones.”[8]

These leaders were passionate, and demonstrated a high level of personal drive and resilience. These factors made it possible to build emotional connections with key constituencies, especially needed during difficult periods.

Finally, one of the most notable distinctions of great leaders was found in their restraint and self-control. It inspired confidence in all key constituencies. A key example of this trait was the composure and stature James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) displayed during the Tylenol scare. His actions are attributed to saving that brand and securing the company’s impeccable reputation.

Related:

  1. Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership
  2. Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?
  3. Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

References:

  1. Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (Zero Time Publishing, 2004)
  2. Knufken, Drea, 10 Reasons People Hate Carly Fiorina (Business Pundit) June 18, 2008
  3. Hafner, Katie, Fred Smith: The Entrepreneur Redux (Inc. Magazine, June 1, 1984)
  4. Sheridan John H., 1997 Technology Leader of the Year Andy Grove: Building an Information Age Legacy (Industry Week, April 19-21, 2010)
  5. Byrne, John A., Chainsaw (Harper Business, 1999, 2003) p 353-354
  6. Gallagher Bill, Once a Bum, Always a Bum (Niagara Falls Reporter, January 29, 2002)
  7. Huntsman, Jon M., Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2008) p 35
  8. Giuliani, Rudolph, Leadership (Hyperion, New York, 2002) p 70

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Dynamic Nature of Credibility

leave a comment »

Ross Perot

When leaders are selected to lead, a reservoir of trust, confidence and credibility is automatically established, similar to an opening balance when one creates a bank account. The factors that contribute to this include:

Expectations

Prior to their selection of a leader, boards of directors or selection committees will establish a series of expectations that will be used during the evaluation process to filter the appropriate candidates and select the one who is determined to be the best.

Therefore, leaders are selected to meet the expectations of the board and investors and to fulfill specific goals and objectives. At the CEO level, these may include such things as producing growth, entering into new markets and increasing profitability, etc.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Credibility

Leaders will normally undergo a selection process that establishes their initial level of credibility. The evaluation process will review the following:

Personal Credibility

Assesses individual reputation and trustworthiness.

Professional Credibility

Assesses the individual’s abilities, skills and capabilities to perform the job and to meet expectations.

Competence

Assesses the individual’s competence and evaluates past performance.

Outcomes and Results

Assesses the track record and the professional accomplishments of the individual.

If individuals are promoted from within an organization, they will have an established base of credibility in these four areas that are readily verified. They also may have established it with one or more of the company’s key constituencies.

This will vary by the previous exposure individuals may have had with these groups. Otherwise, credibility is established through the selection process including interviews, performance reviews and reference checks.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Confidence

Initial levels of confidence are rooted in the beliefs of the board or selection committee that the individual possesses the capabilities and experience to meet their expectations. The authority granted to leaders is affirmed by these three factors.

At this point, the only basis of their legitimacy is the authority conferred upon them. They may have initial levels of validity, based upon reputation and past performance, but to the core constituencies, the leader must verify that validity in their minds.

After the selection process, their levels of validity, confidence and credibility will either rise or fall. This is based upon the same four factors used by a selection committee, including:

  • Personal Credibility
  • Professional Credibility
  • Competence
  • Outcomes and Results

Unlike the selection process, the key constituencies will continually use these criteria to gauge leaders’ performance as long as their tenure continues in the company. The research demonstrates that positive performance in each of these areas will generate specific levels of trust, confidence and loyalty, which enable leaders to establish emotional connections and standing with them.

Analysis of the great leaders validates that credibility is not static. Levels rose and fell as circumstances changed. This doesn’t mean the leaders were not credible or couldn’t be trusted. It revealed that only degrees of confidence varied with key constituencies at any single point in time.

The research illustrated that the emotional bonds and standing established by leaders appeared to carry more weight over the long term. This allowed them to maintain their credibility during difficult periods. When these occurred, their constituencies were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. This validates the clear correlation between credibility and emotional support when it is most needed. As was previously noted, elevated and sustained levels of credibility generate strong bonds of loyalty.

Conversely, the research showed that key constituencies often abandon leaders with poor or diminishing levels of credibility. Major missteps or unethical actions and inept decision-making erode credibility to the point where some leaders never recover. This is exemplified by traumatic events such as restructurings, major layoffs, organizational chaos, or strikes.

In some cases a leader’s validity and legitimacy may be completely lost. Carly Fiorina (Hewlett Packard) experienced this after her failed attempts to radically change her company’s culture. In her case, she had developed problems within all four categories. This resulted in the loss of emotional standing with all her key constituencies. It destroyed her validity to lead. In the end, we all heard of the widely publicized loss of her position as CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Many corporate leaders fail to understand the holistic impact their actions and decisions have upon personal credibility and levels of trust with key constituencies. They also often fail to understand the synergy and bonds of emotional connection and standing within these groups, and the importance to keep them in balance. As previously mentioned, any imbalance will generate additional credibility problems and trust-related issues.

Ross Perot achieved high levels of credibility with the public when he staged a daring rescue of his employees from Iran, during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It was further enhanced when he ran for President in 1992. He had a number of nationally televised events, where he presented his solutions for solving the nation’s problems.

However, on the night of the election, he quickly destroyed his credibility by making light of his efforts, leaving many who voted for him feeling betrayed. While much of the public initially viewed him as a credible leader, he failed to show his concern and appreciation after the election. This caused many of his supporters to feel used, leaving them disenchanted. After this episode, he never again achieved the levels of prominence in the minds of his supporters he once had.

Related: “Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Strategies to Build Trust

with 6 comments

The actions and behaviors of individual leaders impact trust within the organization. Many fail to understand the elements of a trusting work atmosphere and the strategies used to build and establish a firm foundation for trust and leadership.

There are five key elements a leader must focus their efforts on to develop a comprehensive atmosphere of trust in their workplace. While the concept of trust implies participation by both leader and the people they deal with, including their superiors, associates, peers and employees, it must start with the individual leader. It is counterproductive for leaders to withhold their trust until they are able to trust the other party. In most cases trust is mutually developed by both parties and balanced by the commitment each brings to the relationship. Typically, employees and other individuals will reciprocate the trust placed in them by leaders.

As leaders attempt to build trust, they will experience reluctance in the form of employees who have felt betrayed by the organization in the past. Consequently, leaders must signal a change by making the first steps to initiate and demonstrate trust in their employees. Once employees see that a true change has occurred, they will begin to slowly form the bonds of trust needed for leaders to be effective.

Leaders who wish to establish a complete environment of trust with their superiors, associates, peers and employees must consider employing the following strategies:

Establish Professional and Personal Credibility

If leaders are credible, they are trusted and believable to their employees. Employees consider a credible leader to be one who does not advance a personal agenda but has the best interests of the organization and his or her employees at heart.

Employees and other individuals view credibility from differing perspectives. Often credibility can be confused with personal competence. If the leader is knowledgeable and possesses both personal expertise and experience, they are considered credible. Conversely, leaders who maintain positions in which they demonstrate professional incompetence exhibit a lack of professional credibility, with employees viewing their direction, judgment and leadership as suspect.

The other aspect is the leader’s own personal credibility. This involves the employee’s ability to personally trust what a leader says or does. An individual may possess professional credibility and not possess the personal credibility to lead the organization. Strategies leaders must apply to develop and foster personal credibility include:

  • Making themselves available to their employees and easy to talk with. Good leaders do not wait for their employees to approach them, but seek them out on a regular basis. Many will walk around and talk with each employee several times a day to discuss everyday concerns and issues. This proactive approach allows them to monitor the pulse of their organization while facilitating open communication with their employees. They instantly answer questions with straight responses and openly make their expectations of the organization and their employees known.
  • Trusting their employees to handle their jobs and responsibilities without regularly looking over their shoulders and micro-managing their activities.
  • Being completely reliable and always delivering on their promises and commitments without fail, enabling employees to know without question that they can count on the leader.

Fairness

Trust is built when employees know their leader is fair and consistent in his or her actions, decisions and judgments—no matter who is involved and what the circumstances.

Fairness is comprised of both equity and consistency. Leaders can use the following strategies to develop a strong sense of equity including:

  • Ensuring all employees are treated in the same manner.
  • Making sure all actions, judgments and decisions are fair to all parties concerned.
  • Avoiding any favoritism among employees, especially where rewards, recognition and promotions are concerned.

Effective leaders make certain their actions, judgments and decisions are consistent and not based upon specific circumstances. Only when leaders demonstrate consistency over time can they build trust with employees, who then know they will always be treated fairly.

Respect

Trust is built upon a foundation of mutual respect for one another. If respect is absent, trust can never be achieved. Leaders can develop and foster respect by:

  • Demonstrating a personal regard for individual employees’ experience, expertise, knowledge, insight and perspectives concerning their jobs.
  • Actively seeking feedback and employees’ insight, perspective and opinions regarding important decisions.
  • Actively involving employees in the decision making process.
  • Demonstrating appreciation for employees’ personal contributions to the success of the organization.
  • Providing the training, resources and support employees need to competently perform their jobs.
  • Demonstrating care and concern for employees’ lives outside of the workplace.

Pride

Trust is fostered and nurtured by a sense of mutual pride in the work, quality and accomplishments of the organization. This builds organizational cohesiveness that bonds all employees together and strengthens trust in all involved. As workplace cohesiveness increases, so does a sense of trust in the organization and its people. Everyone feels they are working together, and each can be trusted to fulfill his or her role and responsibilities.

Leaders can encourage the development of pride by using the following strategies:

  • Helping employees understand their individual role in the organization and how their efforts contribute to its success.
  • Helping them understand that they personally make a difference within the organization.
  • Exhorting employees to take satisfaction both in their organization’s accomplishments and its contributions to their community.

Comradery

Comradery is not normally associated with the concept of trust, yet it does contribute to the organizational cohesiveness established by trust. As cited above, the stronger the organizational cohesiveness, the stronger the bond between leaders and employees. All involved feel linked by common goals, experiences and successes. They have a sense that everyone is “in it together” and work as a unit rather than as individuals.

Leaders can use the following strategies to build comradery with their employees:

  • Creating a workplace where a common concern is demonstrated and employees feel they can “be themselves.”
  • Openly and regularly celebrating special events and mutual successes.
  • Consistently and openly recognizing, rewarding and celebrating individual successes in a warm and genuine manner.

Excerpt: Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques that build trust, refer to Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

%d bloggers like this: