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Twelve Lessons in Leadership: Be Consistent

By Dr Paul E Adams |

Men pay no heed to a dog that is always barking.
Margaret L. Clement

You can be an expert in the mechanics of leadership, you can be aware of the basic principles, but, and a strong but, if you disregard your behavior and personality traits, you may be undermining your leadership skills and sabotaging your business. Perhaps you have children, if so, are you aware of the importance of being consistent with them? The child psychology experts will tell you that children, in order to feel secure, require parents who are consistent and can be trusted not to send conflicting or confusing signals. And so it is with your employees. If you are prone to irrational actions, conflicting orders, and inconsistent behavior, the lack of a stable environment will lead to poor productivity as well as employee insecurity. And that is counterproductive. Employees have families who depend on a steady paycheck and if your actions and words create a feeling of impending disaster or chaos, don't be shocked when they start looking elsewhere for work.

It is important you act and manage your business with consistency otherwise, you are planting the seeds of confusion, distrust, and lack of respect with your employees, partners, suppliers, and customers. And it is easy to do. Got a problem? It's so easy to make a promise you do not intend to honor, to make an exception to your policies, or use your verbal skills to patch over a difficulty. And when such behavior becomes routine, your employees are never sure of what you mean, what is real, or a bunch of words that will disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I knew a sales manager that would undercut a salesperson's authority by offering concessions only he was permitted to do if meant getting the order. But let anyone else even suggest it and watch out. Remember the expression, "Don't do as I do, do as I say"? In other words, for the brass, exceptions may be the rule. And such behavior by management is not a moral booster.

I watched a small auto parts distributor go broke as the owner loved booze more than his business. His key employees hustled off to a competitor as their boss was unpredictable, unreliable, and inconsistent--up one day, depressed the next. Each day was as unpredictable as the stock market. Not a positive working environment.

As a successful leader, your word must be trusted. You must be looked up to as some one who makes a promise and keeps it. To be less than honest, to play favorites, to bend rules for ego or selfish reasons, is to undermine your reputation and the faith your employees must have in your leadership and judgment. After all, faithful and dedicated productive employees are an asset not easily replaced. Consistency, a simple concept, is vital to building your business. If your leadership is more an act than real deeds someday you may be looking for work.

To be consistent: Promise only what is possible. Keep your promises or do not make them. Treat all your employees equally--playing favorites becomes a liability. If you have rules don't disregard them. To do so sends the wrong message. To be a leader you must set the example of behavior. Remember, respect is earned not bestowed.

That paragon of virtue as Wal-Mart made the headlines this past year with allegations of discrimination, intimidation of employees, unreasonable demands of suppliers and less than honest practices--Does it make sense for the largest retailer in the world to risk ruining their image with such behavior? When Sam Walton the founder was alive, he was consistent.

Why do some successful businesses with a long record of accomplishment of success wither away? One reason is lack of consistent leadership. Leadership that becomes twisted by greedy, dishonest executives riding the past crest of success built by previous management sow the seeds of disaster. Such characters make the headlines these days and we wonder how they managed to reach such positions of responsibility only to succumb to the temptation of quick riches. They forget that market share and product popularity can be as fleeting as the popularity of latest movie. Somehow, these selfish executives believe bubbles never burst.

As you manage your business and work to develop a team of employees that are efficient and productive, remember your leadership is based on more than a few chapters in a text or a dozen seminars; it is created or destroyed by your personal behavior.

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