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LEADERSHIP: Consistency key to influencing employees' behavior

May 29, 2006

Being a leader is not a part-time job.

I have worked with many leaders who failed to recognize this truth. In fact, I am sure there have been times throughout my career where I haven't provided the leadership that my team required.

The truth is that it's easy to be a great leader when things are going well.

When sales are up, profits are growing and customers are happy, it seems that you have all the right answers. You lead inspirational staff meetings, remember to thank everyone for their effort and confidently wear a smile at the office.

When things are going well, you tend to believe that you have been blessed with a natural ability to inspire others and that being a great leader doesn't require much effort.

Unfortunately, things don't always go well.

Your best customers switch to the competition. New sales stop pouring in. Productivity slows. Star employees leave. As a leader, the question is not whether or not these things will happen to your company, but rather, how you will respond when they do.

Many leaders are a direct reflection of the company's current situation. When things get tough, these leaders often get negative, lose focus and cancel regular commitments because they are "too busy" handling the current crisis. In this situation, the staff always knows the company is facing a serious challenge because the leader communicates this stress and fear in everything he says and does.

One of the keys to being a great leader is to make sure that your attitude, demeanor and ability to inspire others doesn't suffer when serious challenges arise. In other words, to be a truly great leader, you must be consistent no matter what the circumstances.

Your team must know that they can generally expect the same person to lead the company day in and day out. They won't respond well in an environment characterized by huge swings in the atmosphere-whether positive or negative. Most employees want consistency so that they clearly understand what is expected of them in any situation.

So, in the fast-paced, pressure-packed world of business today, how can you become a more consistent leader?

First, remember that it's not going to be easy. Disciplining yourself to not allow the circumstances of each day to overly influence how you lead will always be a big challenge.

In an effort to help with this challenge, keep the following lessons in mind:

Remember: Business is a marathon, not a sprint. Nothing will happen in your business today that you won't be able to handle. In addition, no matter how large the challenge, it will probably seem small when reflecting upon it in the future.

Set clear expectations. Make sure your team understands that on a regular basis there are certain ground rules that will always be followed. (Examples include regular staff meetings, progress updates, office gatherings, etc.) Make sure that as their leader you always follow these ground rules.

Review your progress. At the end of every day ask yourself, "Was I a consistent leader today?" If the answer is "no," that is OK. Just make sure you recognize how you let your circumstances influence your behavior and learn from the experience. The key is to improve a little every day.

I know what you're thinking: Easier said than done. I couldn't possibly understand how crazy it gets at your company. You might be right; your company might be especially busy and out of control. But it doesn't matter.

Your main responsibility as a leader is not to get more done on your own. You will not win a medal at the end of the year for putting in the most hours or extinguishing the most fires. Your main job is to guide and influence the behavior of others. The key to being a great leader is to get more out of those you lead, not yourself. And one of the keys to doing this is to be consistent-every single day.



McClanahan is business coach, speaker and trainer. He is the president of ReachMore Strategies and can be reached at cjm@goreachmore.com.
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