October 13, 2011

Leaders must be role models

Jeroen De Flander of the Performance Factory has returned my serve beautifully with a challenging question "What do you do when people know that non-integer behaviour got them - or their boss or CEO - the corner office?"

Non-integer behaviours result in short-term or immediate benefits to only one or a few involved. But the long-term repercussions are far greater for the larger population. Our current world economy painfully illustrates the impact of this short-term thinking and behaviour.

This is even more dangerous when the leaders misbehaving have great power and authority over large populations. Greece provides a powerful clarion call to all of us to beware the long-term effects of our actions.

So how do you shift people away from those behaviours when the immediate payoff looms large? 

Sometimes you can't if they aren't willing to change.

It's the amount of pain they experience that shifts people away from destructive behaviours. Whether it is through their results, peer pressure or management, people who experience those short-term rewards will only cease their actions when they no longer deliver a pay off or when the pain of continuing them is great enough to motivate change. Unfortunately, that often occurs when it's too late to stop the damage. Witness Lehman Brothers.

We can train people in skills, but they learn behaviours and thinking through observing others. We need leaders to be more than just successful captains. They must be role models. Too many lives are dependent on them.

There will always be people unwilling and unable to act with integrity. My goal is to provide enough of a balance to ensure their damage is minimised. As coaches and consultants, we must focus our energies on those who put their hands up.

So, Jeroen, you can lead a horse to water, even shove his head in it, but can't make him drink—how do you build the peer and social pressure around people to show them another way?

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