Famed Indian lawyer, politician, social activist and writer Mahatma Gandhi is attributed with the quote,
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
This speaks to the core of who we are as leaders. Brene Brown boils this down quite simply to, “Who we are is how we lead.” Meaning, these beliefs, thoughts, words, actions, habits, and values manifest themselves in leadership…either in good ways or bad ways.
What does this look like in action in the workplace? Consider these two types of bosses. Which do you think is more of a leader?:
Boss #1 consistently micromanages their team. Their work is never good enough, yet the feedback the team receives is not constructive…it’s just criticism. Though they may complete projects, there is always an obstacle that causes a frenzy at the last minute. The team dynamic is overly competitive, stressful, and there is a high turnover rate. Team members horde their knowledge and mistrust each other, and their boss. They don’t take accountability for their mistakes; they blame others. There is no room for development.
Boss #2 trusts their team. They provide guidance but allow their team members the space to get the job done. If a team member misses the mark on a project, it is treated as a learning opportunity. The team dynamic is congenial, rigorous, and productive. Team members share best practices, ideas, and information easily, and own their mistakes. Everyone enjoys being a part of this team. Development is an expectation.
Obviously, Boss #2 is the leader. And, we can identify some of the core beliefs of Boss #2 through their actions:
- Trust. They demonstrate this trust by not micromanaging; allowing the team members to explore, do, and even fail in a psychologically safe environment.
- Accountability. They hold themselves and their team accountable.
- Respect. They give respect, and in return are respected.
- Communication. They communicate with their team openly and honestly, including the hard things. They don’t shy away from discussions or try to hide information.
- Empower. They empower their team to try, fail and learn.
- Development. Their team’s learning is not just an aside. It is an expectation. They enable their team to grow as individuals and as a cohesive unit.
“anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”
As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Or, more simply put, true leaders walk the talk.