Do as I say

I have lost count of the amount of times over the years when I have advised leaders that they have to do what they are telling others is important. On one occasion it was about demonstrating how everyone, including those in senior positions, were going to work in open plan offices. If that was going to be the situation then it was vital that it included everyone and was clearly communicated by what those in charge did.

As you can imagine within a few days senior leaders were retreating back to their offices and abandoning any idea of working open plan. It showed again how important it was to live the organisations values and to do what you were asking others to. How can employees see these things as important if those leading organisations refused to do them? It is the eternal problem of leaders saying ‘do as I say not as I do’.

This has reared its head again as Boris Johnson continues to be pictured not wearing a mask. After being challenged about the situation including what happens in the House of Commons there is still a reluctance to be pictured in a mask. This is despite guidance that they are giving others and an encouragement to take care as Covid-19 is on the increase in Europe.

The behaviour we are seeing damages trust and confidence. If you are saying something but not adhering to it then why should others? If you don’t show that things are important to you then why should others see them as crucial? And if you don’t think the things you introduce apply to you then why should they apply to others?

Leaders have an important role to play in living the organisation’s values, setting the culture they want to exist, and at times of crisis building trust and confidence through what they do as well as what they say. It isn’t easy. This is why those at the top of organisations get paid the big bucks. They are role models and there is no time to ‘have a day off’ from the position. Everything they do and say will be watched and scrutinised.

The past two years have demonstrated the critical role that leaders play. It is not just about knowing and leading the business, it is about so much more. I continue to argue that there needs to be new style of leadership development that looks much wider than financial and development skills. And to anyone in a leadership position beware of the ‘do what I say’ approach.

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