There’s a popular belief that people don’t leave an organisation rather they leave a boss. Now this may be fact supported by data, research and evidence or it may be an urban myth generated by enough people having said it to make it believable.
Either way you will agree with the premise or not based upon your own experience.
For me, yes, it’s certainly been true on several occasions.
So if we assume that leadership plays such an important part of retaining good people here are my thoughts on three key areas – Clarity, Confidence & Consistency – that any boss would do well to do well!
A leader once said “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Those words were part of an address given to a Joint session of Congress by US President John F. Kennedy on Thursday 25 May 1961.
At 10.56 p.m. on Sunday 20 July 1969 Commander Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of Apollo 11 and, as he prepared to set foot on the Moon, said “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
That very clear goal took precisely 8 years, 1 month and 25 days to achieve but it started with the words of a leader expressed with utter clarity.
Clarity acts like a light to illuminate the darkness of confusion and to enable a clear view.
Clarity make the complex simple to understand striving to ensure that everyone in the team gets the message and can interpret what it means for them
JFK knew precisely what success looked like which is the task of the leader.
If the leader isn’t clear then the team members have no hope. They are at sea in a rudderless boat at the mercy of where the environment might take them, instead of steering the steady course based on the co-ordinates mapped out by their Captain.
Confidence is a magnetic characteristic which helps to pull a team through challenges and difficulties and a leader owes it to their people to be confident in a crisis.
Confidence is a component of calmness at the best of times let alone the hard times.
A confident leader will be happy to surround themselves with talent and people who know more about thing than they do. Why wouldn’t they? They have nothing to fear and everything to gain for being supported by the very best individuals they can find.
A leader needs confidence to effectively fulfil their demanding role to make decisions, to listen to feedback and ideas, ask the right questions, maintain a resolutely positive outlook, admit they don’t know everything and so source the assistance they do need, communicate with authenticity, competence and passion, set the direction, reassure their staff and inspire them.
Confidence will encourage a feeling of trustworthiness and people are going to follow someone they trust far more readily than someone you don’t trust!
Leaders are going to make mistakes; there will be errors in judgement and wrong decisions made. Show me someone who’s never made a mistake and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything or said anything. A confident leader will naturally reframe a mistake as a learning opportunity; they will regroup and move on.
You see confidence is an attractive quality and people don’t follow leaders who lack personal confidence.
Consistency is a key attribute of effective leadership.
Team members need to know what to expect of the boss. Who’s walking in through the door? Who’s turning up to chair the meeting? Whether they can have a joke or not today? Whether what the leader said first thing Monday morning is what holds true by Friday afternoon?
The leader sets the tone and they cannot afford the disruption and dismay that can result through their inconsistent behaviour. People need to know what to expect, no massive mood swings, no irrational outbursts, no nice one minute and nasty the next. No dips!
Dips should be reserved for carrots and breadsticks and have no place in leadership.
Leaders can’t openly have their favourites and their whipping posts – everyone should be treated with the same respect.
They can’t blow hot and cold.
They can’t be bouncing off the ceiling one moment and in the depths of despair the next.
Let me rephrase … Leaders CAN, of course, do all those things however, their credibility and believability in the top job won’t last long.
To borrow from the more famous hot kitchen classic … “If you can’t stand the seat get out of the office!”
Imagine walking up to the counter at a well-known fast food outlet of your choice, you place your order and you know what to expect you’ll be served, no surprises, just as it always is and as it should be. Well the leader should serve their team with a consistent diet of high quality behaviour (so that’s where we part company with the fast food comparison, folks). Consistency means there are no surprises, just as it always is and as it should be.
We are all entitled to a wobble an from time to time to throw our toys out of the pram BUT if you are the leader there are consequences if you do. Now, that may be fair but it is true!
The leader has to set the tone and it is incumbent on them to keep a tight rein on their horses even when they don’t want to. Consistency is the price asked for sitting in the big chair.
Any leader who doesn’t have these qualities could be compared to a coastal home perched precariously on the very edge of an eroding cliff top under threat that at any time the ground below it could finally give way and the property would fall into the sea.
However, with clarity, confidence and consistency a leader will stand firm on very solid ground indeed, with their team proud to stand alongside them.