It’s been years since the Enron disaster and the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Business ethics remain an integral role in the way business is conducted on a global basis; yet when asked to grade CEOs, 79% of people surveyed recently said that CEOs “are ruthless in their pursuit of success.” Only 28% indicated that CEOs have integrity. All of this should be a red flag to anyone in a leadership role about the importance of ethical behavior and integrity.
Leaders who focus on short-term gains rarely endure profitability for long periods of time, let alone retain the best of their employees. What do true leaders do that sets them apart? And what about leading a global workforce that you might never meet face to face?
In person or while working in “the cloud” via online collaboration tools, true leaders are driven by a core set of values:
An inherent and genuine caring for people and a desire to help others achieve
True leaders genuinely value and care about people, and helping others is their primary motivator. The average true leader is able to relate to people at all levels of the company and to respect each for the contributions that they bring to their individual jobs at their respective levels.
A realistic concern for profit and results
“Realistic” is the key word. They are not driven by money alone – they are realistic and driven by practicality. They will evaluate business moves for their utility and economic return – and will be willing to work long and hard to achieve desired results.
Competitive, never ruthless
True leaders are extremely practical; they clearly understand the need to be competitive yet they possess the ability to evaluate each situation to determine how much or little power and control will be exercised. Power does not equate to total control; rather it is exercised with discretion and balance.
A strong desire to control their own destiny and influence the destiny of other
They do not merely focus on controlling their own destiny. They have a system for championing the things they believe in strongly and for helping others to achieve as well.
They accept things without taking them personally. They have the resilience to move beyond mistakes, take their hits, pick themselves up and move forward. This resiliency also gives them the courage to stand up for issues of integrity in which they believe.
Don’t starve your racehorses
A man who bought racehorses spent time and money purchasing horses with the best of breeding. Once purchased, he put them in sub-standard stables, fed and cared for them with inferior products, rarely exercised or trained them. He sabotaged his own investment. Yet everyday in business, that’s exactly what happens. Companies seek the best and brightest, yet when ruthless, unethical leaders are in charge, these racehorse talents are turned into niched workhorses often deprived of training or being exposed to projects that would enable them to learn and grow.
Truly get to know the individuals on your team; make time for genuine small talk. This is an incredible rapport builder.
Achievers like to know they are being given opportunities for growth—not just more work.
A handwritten note of appreciation or a phone call from the boss may be more motivating than you might ever guess.
Recognize that different people require different communication styles. Adapt your style to more effectively communicate with them.
Really, really listen. As one true leader says, “You must listen to learn, then lead.”
Fast Birds Don’t Fly Far
While all leaders are faced with global competition and ever-changing challenges, it is also important to be aware that some employees will need to process change less rapidly than others.
Foster long-term thinking
Make sure that every team member understands that inevitable change is tied to something bigger that culminates in a very specific end-result. Then make sure each team member clearly understands the role they play in achieving that end result.
Encourage seeking experienced thinking
Blend new, fresh thinking individuals with those who have experience and wisdom to expand the possibilities and to avoid reinventing the wheel.
Mistakes will be made. Create an environment where people feel free to admit mistakes. When a leader truly eliminates blame, he makes great strides toward establishing trust.
Nip it in the bud; demonstrate right up front that politics will not be tolerated. When politics are ignored or allowed, trust is eroded.
Mentor and Coach.
Far too many individuals have encountered only “reverse mentors,” those who they understandably never want to be like. Make sure you’re not one of them. Don’t leave it all up to the human resource department. Benchmark the attributes that are best suited for success in the job and then make sure the candidate meets the benchmark. Use assessments to validate or reveal hidden characteristics that may not show up on traditional hiring requirements. Never, never be swayed solely by that “great interview.”
Don’t clone yourself
Every team needs diverse thinking to cover all the bases.
Do What’s Right and Tell the Truth
One’s ability to do what’s right and tell the truth is the greatest signal of leading with integrity and ethics.
Admit your mistakes
Even the boss makes mistakes. How you handle your own mistakes will set the tone for the rest of our team.
If you’re the manager of sales and the expected revenue isn’t met, don’t place the whole blame on your team. What could you have done differently or better to help your team meet the goal? As the leader, ultimately, you are accountable. Demonstrate that you are and you will have earned the right to expect accountability from everyone else on your team.
Be willing to tell the truth to individuals on your team
It’s easy to tell the truth when someone is doing a great job and demonstrates great talents. It’s harder to tell the truth when an employee thinks they are suited for something that you know they’re not. During these difficult times, do both yourself and the employee a favor and tell them the truth. Do it honestly, with compassion and care, so they can grow in the direction they are better suited for. And, in the case of a wrong hire, do it early.
We are living and working “in the cloud” and the IoT (Internet of Things) where the ethics and integrity of leadership continues to come into question - faster and bigger than ever before. We are living in the world of the errant Tweet, the YouTube video in bad taste, and the hacked email account, and we are all on stage 24 x 7 x 365.
There is no greater time to be a true leader, face to face or otherwise.