How to Lead and How Not to Lead – another post in that periodic series 

As usual, let’s talk about the how not to lead first…

Leadership without integrity is an impossibility. So if your goal is to NOT be mistaken for a leader then don’t worry about saying one thing and doing another. Things change. You also have the right to change your mind any time you want to. For any reason you want to. It’s nobody’s business but your own. 

As someone in a leadership position you owe no one an explanation for saying one thing and doing another. If someone doesn’t like it that’s their problem, not yours. People who you are supposed to be leading should learn your word is worthless. They should just fall in line and go with the flow.  

Everybody knows that sometimes keeping your commitments is impossible and people need to be adaptable. Honoring commitments is so old fashioned that it’s hysterical anyone still expects it. People who expect you to actually lead need to get a clue! 

Trying to explain your decisions or thought process to the people you are supposed to be leading makes you look weak. It makes you look foolish. Worse yet, it makes you look like someone who might care about what your people think of you. 

Never forget, the people you boss around are the “little people” and there is no point in trying to explain your big thoughts to the likes of them. 

Of course, there is also the possibility that you actually DO want to lead. In that case you may want to do things a little differently. 

Things do indeed change and when they do you should be the first one to acknowledge it. You MUST alert people the instant you become aware of the change. Delaying only casts doubt on your credibility. You need to explain why the change is taking place and how it will affect your people. 

If you can’t honor your commitments, you need to apologize. That apology is not a sign of weakness. It is exactly the opposite. It is a sign of strength. It is a sign of your authenticity as a leader. You should also explain why you can’t honor that particular commitment and reaffirm the importance of your overall commitment to the people you lead. 

Failure to do any of that will result in a lack of respect and loyalty. It will also destroy your trust producing credibility. It erases your integrity. 

Authentic Leaders know that absent credibility, trust, and integrity, there can be no true followership. And without followers you are not a leader, no matter what your position and title says. 

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

How Trust is Really Built

I’m not sure why but I’ve seen a ton of blog posts and various articles lately about building trust. Most of them are about particular words you either should or shouldn’t use if you want to build trust. 

Some of them talk about tone of voice or making eye contact when you want someone to know you’re being particularly truthful. I love that word combo “particularly truthful.”

Imagine someone writing about building trust and in the article seeming to indicate that sometimes you’re more truthful than others. When you want to convince someone you can be trusted then you should be “particularly truthful.” They don’t explain what you should be the rest of the time so I’m left to wonder about it. 

What surprises me about every single article and post I’ve read the last few weeks on building trust, and there have been many of them, is that not a single one of them talked about being trustworthy. The talk about using “trustable” words and phrases. A few even talked about behaving in a certain way to convince people you can be trusted. 

But not one said to build trust by actually being trustworthy. 

To me being trustworthy is saying exactly what you mean and doing exactly what you say. All the time. It’s about honoring your commitments, every commitment. All the time. 

When your words match your actions, even if not everyone agrees with them, you will be trusted. 

If you’re forced to use certain words for people to trust you then I’d have to say it’s possible you’re not trustworthy. If you have to behave in any other way than being your normal self then it’s very possible that people shouldn’t really trust you. 

If you want to be trusted then don’t say yes when you know your actions are going to show you meant no. Don’t commit to doing something today when you know darn well it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to do it today. 

Trust isn’t built on what we say, it’s built on what we do. There’s no need to read a bunch of articles on how to be trusted. All you need to do is be trustworthy. 

One other thing, if you’re wondering how you can tell if someone else can be trusted there is only one sure way to know. Trust them, they will quickly show you if your trust is deserved or not. 

On a another subject…I’m trying something new over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular Twitter followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may just be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help. 

Leading With Integrity

So let’s get this out of the way right up front. If you’re not leading with integrity then you’re simply not leading.

You’re not leading because leading requires that someone is following you. A true follower will have some level of commitment to their leader. People can be forced to comply with someone in a leadership position but they cannot be forced to commit.

In fact, they cannot commit. It is not possible for one human being to truly commit to another human being that they do not trust. Integrity is the foundation upon which trust is built. Where there is no integrity there can be no trust.

Having integrity is a choice. It’s a choice to do what you said you would do, even if you no longer feel like doing it. You may have never thought of it like this but you have an “Integrity Bank.” Every time you do exactly what you committed to do you’ll receive a small deposit into that Credibility Bank. When you fail to honor a commitment, any commitment, you suffer a substantial withdrawal from your Credibility Bank.

That may not seem fair but that’s the way it works. You don’t need to have too many withdrawals to reach a zero balance in your bank. That means zero credibility and that means zero committed followers.

Authentic Leaders know that their most valuable “currency” is their credibility. They know that without it that can not have a positive influence on those they hope to lead. So they honor their commitments. They follow through. They keep their word. They don’t say yes when they need to say no.

Their people know that they can trust their leader. Their people know that their leader is committed to them so they can commit to their leader.

Every committed relationship is built on a foundation of integrity. It’s the single most important foundation in any relationship. What Authentic Leaders understand that many lesser leaders don’t is this one irrefutable fact….you either have integrity 100% of the time or you do not have integrity.

Integrity is a full-time gig. It’s not something you do at work. It’s not something you do at home. It’s not something you do with people who matter to you. It’s just something you do because it’s who you are. It’s part of your DNA.

Or it’s not. The great thing is that it’s a part of your DNA that you get to control. The only question is, will you choose to control it.

How Matters

I like to win! I enjoy success. I also know there are things more important than always winning and always succeeding. 

 

For me, and I know some will call me naive because of this, but for me how you win is just as important as winning itself. Success at the expense of your integrity isn’t really success at all. Now before you ask me to define success let me say that the definition of success is a very personal thing. But no matter your own definition of success if you cheated, lied or stole your way to it then your “success” is nothing to be proud of. 

 

No where in the Bible does it say that money is evil. What it does say is that the love of money is the root of all evil. Loving money, or the success the comes with it, at the expense of anything or anyone cannot be true success.

 

In the hit 1987 movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gekko made a speech where he said “Greed is Good.” The line became famous but too many people apparently forgot that they were watching a movie. They believed the line as if it were straight out of scripture. 

 

It was frankly a line that many people wanted to believe. It allowed them to balance unethical behavior with the “fact” that greed was good. 

 

Well let’s set the record straight. Greed is not good. Unethical behavior is not good. Trading your integrity for the appearance of success is not good. Winning at all cost is not winning at all. 

 

Winston Churchill once said that “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

 

If you truly want success then don’t try to balance how much of your integrity you’re willing to sacrifice to have it. Instead balance what you get with what you give. Don’t just work to make a living, work to make a life. 

 

I’ll never forget what my 7th grade teacher once told me. His name was Cyril Paul. 7th grade was a while ago for me and I don’t remember many, if any, of my teachers who came before or after him. To say he was an impactful teacher would be an understatement. What he told me was that “what” I did with my life would be of little consequence when compared with “how” I did it. 

 

The fact is that too many times in my life I have forgotten those words. The result has never been anything to make me proud of myself. But I always eventually come home to those words to get myself back in balance. 

 

I’m afraid too many of our world “leaders” either never had those words spoken to them or they have completely forgotten them. 

 

“How” matters. It matters in everything you say and do in your life. 

 

Be a person of integrity. If your leaders are “win at all cost” kind of leaders then lead up and hold them accountable for “how” they achieve their success. Whether they are leaders in your company, your church or your government make sure you hold them to very high standards. 


Always remember “how” matters for you as well so hold yourself to those very high standards too.

Are you a Trusted Leader?

Emerson said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. Their character determines the character of the organization.” (today we would say “person” instead of man but the point remains the same) 

 

So how would you answer the following two questions? Are you the person in your organization that Emerson was talking about? If you are then is your integrity always above reproach? By the way, I should probably point out that you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity at any time. Integrity is not a part time job.

     

If your integrity is indeed above reproach then you have the opportunity to lead others, really lead. Maybe before you answer those two questions you should consider a little research: Only 45% of 400 managers in a Carnegie-Mellon survey believed their top management was always truthful; a third distrusted their immediate bosses. Current research says that 85% of employees across all businesses and industries are actually demotivated by their “leader.” 

 

What does that survey have to do with you?  Maybe nothing, but maybe, just maybe, you could consider it a wake-up call. A call telling you that you must be especially diligent in making certain that you live by the high standards that you expect from those who you hope to lead. Perhaps the survey results can serve to remind you that you have to work every day to earn the trust and respect of your people. You should never lose awareness that your people are always watching to see if your words match your actions. 

     

Consider as well this fact: Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just an image! Before you answer the questions above, ask yourself these questions: Are you the same person no matter who you are with? Do you make decisions that are best for others when another choice would benefit you? Are you quick to recognize others for their efforts and contributions to your success? (In writing?) 

     

You see, image is what people think you are, integrity is what, and who, you really are. Asking yourself these three questions can help keep you on track and ensure that your image reflects who you truly are.

     

Here is one reason integrity is so important for a leader: Integrity has high influence value, if you have the ability to influence others than your ability to lead is unlimited. Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever. Effective leadership is not based on being clever; it is based on being consistent. No one can fool all of the people of all of the time, insincerity can’t be covered up. Leaders who are sincere don’t have to advertise the fact.

   

Integrity is a hard-won achievement, it takes a long time to establish it with your team and you never fully complete the task. Your team expects four things from you on a consistent basis: honesty, competence, vision and inspiration. Those areas all impact your integrity. 

     

Ask something who knows you well what areas of your life they see as consistent (you do what you say) and what areas they see as inconsistent (you say but don’t always live.) If you don’t like their answer remember, you can change, you can become the leader you want to be, but also remember, you will only become what you are becoming right now.

    

So, now it’s time. Go ahead, answer the two questions in the first paragraph and then do whatever it takes to be certain your answer is always, always, yes.

One Question, Three Answers

Over the weekend I had a reader of this blog ask me a question. It was one question that asked if I could share three qualities that make a leader successful. I did not respond immediately because I wanted to put some real thought into my answer. I answered his question later in the day but I didn’t stop thinking about my answer. 

Hence this blog post.

The three qualities cited in my answer were integrity, a caring nature, and good judgment. Some people will automatically assume that I believe those three qualities should be “ranked” in that order. The fact is that they don’t have to be ranked at all because they are intrinsically linked. 

Let me explain.

In many cases the lack of integrity comes directly as a result of poor judgment. Someone in a leadership position does something that they expect will turn out well but when it doesn’t they lie to hide their poor judgment. 

Lying destroys credibility. Not sometimes, not usually, lying ALWAYS destroys credibility. Even lying that comes about as a result of poor judgment destroys credibility. The bigger the lie the greater the destruction.

Liars don’t lead, they manipulate, they coerce, they maneuver, they twist and turn, and they disguise. They can even sometimes project the appearance of success but they do not lead, they never never lead. Some people in leadership positions who lack integrity believe that they can force people to follow them…that is the ultimate in poor judgment. 

They may trick people, they may force some level of compliance out of people for their personal gain and to some that may even look like progress but none of it is leading. Leading requires at least a minimal level of commitment on the part of at least a few followers. People cannot commit to people that they do not trust. 

Wondering which comes first, lack of integrity or poor judgment, is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. The reality is it doesn’t matter, both the lack of integrity and poor judgment are killers of leadership potential. 

Whether or not to maintain your integrity is of course the ultimate decision that someone in a leadership position must make. Their judgment when making that decision will determine whether or not they truly have an opportunity to be an authentic servant leader. All leaders should know this simply fact: no one can steal your integrity, you can only give it away.

People without integrity AND good judgment might have a leadership position, but that doesn’t mean they are leading.

Which brings us to a caring nature. Leadership is about people and only people. You manage stuff, budgets, plans, and processes but NOT people. People cannot and should not be managed, they must be led.

If you don’t care about people you simply will not make them the priority that they need to be in order to lead them. When you truly care about someone they can see it in your actions and hear it in your words. They will know you care.

When you don’t actually care they will figure that out too. When your people know that you don’t care they will quickly determine that your motives are all about you. They will feel used. This happens even faster when they sense a lack of integrity because when they don’t trust you, they doubt your motives from the very start.

Caring for others is a choice. It’s a choice you must make before you choose to lead. Lying to someone for your own benefit shows not only a lack of integrity, it shows a tremendous lack of caring. 

As a leader your success is completely dependent on the success of your people. Not caring for or about those people shows terribly poor judgment. 

So what’s more important, integrity, caring or judgment? I’d say it’s irrelevant because having two without the third still makes it very challenging to lead.

 

An Epic Failure of Leadership

We have been presented with two options to choose from. Either the executive team at Wells Fargo is as corrupt as an executive team can be or they are the dumbest group of people ever to run any organization. 

5300 Wells Fargo employees were terminated last week for creating millions of fraudulent accounts to meet what has been described as nearly unbearable pressure and demands to add new customer accounts. Progress at some branches was reviewed as many as 4 times a day. The pressure was relentless. 

Nothing, not morales, not ethics, not even those little things called laws could slow down the relentless push to meet the Wells Fargo corporate initiative known as “Gr-eight Initiative.” Wells Fargo has a goal that every customer should have eight separate accounts with the bank.

Apparently goals are more important than anything at Wells Fargo. In order to meet the goals of the initiative employees opened new accounts for current customers without the customer’s approval or knowledge. This required forging signatures, creating fake email accounts, and moving customer’s money between these accounts without their knowledge, sometimes causing a customer’s real account to go into the red.

Here’s the most amazing part of all this to me; not one senior level manager or executive had a clue any of this was happening for the last 5 years. Of the 5300 employees terminated ALL were front line employees. Not a single manager had even a microcosm of responsibility for any of this. 

That couldn’t be harder to believe if Hillary Clinton said it.

There is clearly a culture at Wells Fargo that says anything goes. The culture doesn’t even pretend to care about ethics. Apparently the culture not only condones the breaking of laws, it encourages it. 

No matter what else may or may not be true about the goings on at Wells Fargo this much is certain: an organization’s culture comes from the top. 

What happened over the last five years at Wells Fargo is bad, what’s happening today is even worse. If nothing changes with the management at that bank then nothing changes at that bank. 

Is there even one responsible person in a position of authority at that organization? Is there even one person in a leadership position at Wells Fargo with enough courage to say “it’s on me”?

Wells Fargo paid a fine “for the actions of their employees.” What about the actions, or at the very least, the inaction of their leaders? There has been an epic failure of leadership at that bank. 5300 employees didn’t undertake that level of deceit all on their own, it’s time for the people who drove that behavior to step up.

Our lesson here is twofold: when integrity goes out the window everything else is welcome in and absent integrity from those in top leadership positions there is no motivation for anyone else to lead either.