Simple Truths of Leadership

5 Simple truths of leadership

Simple Truths of Leadership

There are a few key simple Truths of Leadership that are universal to all leaders and serve as a guide to achieving effective leadership. They are simple to embrace but sometimes difficult to practice. Anytime we find we are operating outside of these principles, we need to stop and reevaluate our thoughts and actions.

By following these simple guidelines we will be more effective in our leadership and have greater satisfaction with our results.

1) Make learning our life’s goal. We need to be continuously seeking greater knowledge and understanding. There is more to know than we will ever understand. It is imperative that we take every opportunity to learn more to expand our base of knowledge and understanding to make better decisions.

We have limitless opportunity to learn. We have continually available access to online education, through webinars, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn, educational institutions, books, and many other resources. There are usually educational and training options available to us through our employers, as well as from professional organizations and informal common purpose meet-ups.

Most importantly we can learn from those around us and our everyday experiences. We are surrounded by people who have differing backgrounds, experiences and wisdom. They are bound to offer a different perspective based on their blend of experience and understanding. We need to be sure to take in everything they have to offer and synthesize our own view of understanding.

We operate in a real-life learning lab. Take full advantage of trying new things in a controlled manner and observe the result. Analyze the current blend of culture and actions and measure the results against our own perspective. Make an adjustment and see what happens. Be sure to observe the change and catalog the results so that we can continue to rise to higher levels of Excellence.

2) Do not act against our principles. We have a solid perspective on right and wrong. Every time we act outside of our core principles, we not only diminish the effectiveness of our leadership, we diminish ourselves as a person. We know when something is right and wrong. We established those core values years ago. When we operate outside of those values, we can never get back the part of us we lose.

Our values keep us centered and in alignment with how we want to be treated and want others to treat us. These values are important to us and serve as guardrails to keep us centered in doing the right thing. It is almost a certainty that when we operate outside our values we are going to hurt someone else and that will cause unrest in our conscience. That unrest will undermine our effectiveness and eventually catch up with us in one form or another as we wrestle with the outcome of our decisions.

3) Always speak truthfully. Our word is our bond of integrity. When we speak untruthfully or even spin something to better fit the desired narrative, we diminish our authority and integrity. Eventually the results of our misspeak will impact our credibility as others come to realize that we cannot be trusted.

Our word must always be as solid as stone. The words we speak as well as communicate through other means are the essence of our leadership. We are in the business of influencing others to engage and follow our lead. Our words are our currency for that exchange. If our words cannot be trusted then we have reduced the value of our currency as well as the value and effectiveness of our leadership.

4) Be thoughtful in our planning. As leaders we set the direction for others to follow. We are going to ask people to commit their most valuable resource, their time to achieving a purpose we put in front of them. We need to carefully consider how we ask them to utilize that valuable commodity and make sure that we do not waste their energy along the journey.

We need to make sure that our planning leads to the destination we truly want to reach. It will be ultimately disappointing and highly ineffective for our leadership to take people in the wrong direction. We need to be sure that when we arrive, we have arrived at a point of value and intention. There could be nothing worse than leading to a dead end or achieving lesser results than promised. We must be sure that we are clear on the destination.

5) Follow through on our commitments. It is extremely hollow for a leader to point to a direction, make commitments to engage action and then not provide the follow through. We will quickly be discovered by our followers as just being a noisy clang if we do not provide the support, resources and personal commitment that we advertise. Our effectiveness as a leader will immediately be diminished as those around us realize that we are not committed and they imitate our example.

Follow through is imperative. It demonstrates that we are committed to making the progress described and can be counted on to help provide the means to get there. Without follow through, the journey will stop as soon as it gets started. There is no substitute for delivering on our commitment.

These are simple but key truths that define us as leaders and directly impact the effectiveness of our leadership. They can boost our results and satisfaction by closely following them. Ignore them at our own peril.


Skip Gilbert

Return on Influence

4 tips for managing our Return on Influence

Return on Influence

“We influence people around us with every interaction” — Skip Gilbert

As a leader our success is measured by our ability to meet our goals and the goals of the business. We either achieve our goals or we don’t. It is a relatively simple exercise to understand our accomplishments and where we stand compared to our expectations. Something that is much more difficult to measure is our effectiveness as a leader. Are we leading by attraction or by command? How many people follow us and do they do so willingly or under duress? Are we producing the maximum results that our teams can deliver or are we holding them back? These are interesting questions and the answers are critical to our continued success.

Ultimately, we lead by influence. As an effective leader we call upon the good sense and imagination of those around us to join in our vision and help move our efforts to a better state of existence. We set a compelling vision, offer practical ways to get started, help our teams see that the future is better than the present and ask them to engage in getting us there. We are rarely able to do this alone or even directly with our own team. We generally need the support of others around us to participate in the effort. Since we cannot do it by ourselves and we need the assistance of others to accomplish it we do it by influence.

There is a term increasingly being recognized in digital marketing called Return on Influence. This term is being constructed to indicate the indirect benefit of exposure in other venues, such as social media to increase traffic on the originator’s site. The idea being that the more others hear positive commentary about a product or service, the more likely they are to seek out the product or service. It is a term of indirect influence rather than a measure of direct advertising.

The concept of Return on Influence is an interesting way of considering our effectiveness as a leader. Since a great deal of our ability to achieve goals is dependent on influencing others to commit their time and energy to our cause, how our influence impacts the results is worth managing. We need the people around us to think positively of our leadership and openly support our efforts to move forward. We need our influence to carry the positive message even when we are not present in the conversation.

We influence people around us with every interaction. Our greeting in the hallway, the expression on our faces when deep in thought, the tone and substance of our email, the words we say, the way we react to things others say, these are all points of influence. As leaders, people are watching us at every moment. They are trying to understand who we are, if we are sincere, and most importantly are we trustworthy. They want to know that their leader is intelligent and well informed as well as human. They are constantly trying to get the measure of us as a person as well as decide if it is safe to follow our lead. This scrutiny just comes with the job. It is part of the pleasure and burden of leading people, especially highly talented people.

The great news is that since we know that we are being observed and our thoughts and actions are influencing their thoughts and behaviors, we can make sure that we are doing the things that help further our ability to lead and achieve our goals. We need to consider our every action and comment through the the eyes of those who are evaluating us as leaders. Even the little things matter.

We have a large influence when we speak in meetings and through our written correspondence. We need to take the time to make sure that the tone we are delivering is the tone we want people to hear. We need to make sure we are prepared and engaged when we participate in these meetings. The behavior we display will quickly be imitated by those around us and will become the norm. We need to make sure that the norm we set is the behavior we want to see.

Interestingly, the informal times we engage with our teams and individual resources may play an even larger part in the effectiveness of our influence. We need to make sure we are pleasant and courteous to those we meet. We need to be engaging and acknowledge other people as we pass. We need to be able to engage in personal conversation, even when we are busy or distracted. We need to be encouraging and recognize the contributions of others, even in the small things. Remember, our ability to achieve great things depends on others to willingly follow us. If they cannot relate to us, they will not give us their very best.

We get our return on this investment as people embrace our vision and invest their own passion and energy into achieving or exceeding our goals. This is where all of the time and effort we spent engaging with others and making sure we set the best example possible has the payoff. This is where the example of Excellence we display comes back multiplied by those around us. This is how we succeed. This is our Return on Influence.

Here are 4 tips for managing our Return on Influence:

Be Transparent

4 Tips for being more transparent

Be Transparent

“Keeping the destination a secret only makes the journey more challenging” — Skip Gilbert

To be an effective leader we must be transparent in our actions and communications. If we can trust ourselves and be trusted by others, being transparent is a powerful thing. If we are not confident in our leadership skills or do not believe in our people, then this will be a difficult thing for us to do.

To be transparent as a leader has many different meanings, but put simply transparency is consistently behaving in a way that is predictable and authentic. This means no surprises. Transparency is making things clear. Being transparent does not mean being an open book
or telling everything we know. There are some things such as trade secrets, financial disclosures, negotiations and other common sense things that must remain confidential.

We need to disclose all that we can, especially if it impacts our resources or changes our direction. People want to know that their leaders have a direction, have experience with current challenges and have a solution or can describe the path to find one.

Our employees will quickly detect if we are not being fully forthcoming with them. They will conclude that there must be something bad we are hiding from them if we are not openly sharing. This will cause them to lose confidence in the direction and start to distrust the communications they are receiving from their leaders.

We need to share our vision and be prepared to sell the benefits of the future state with our teams. They need to understand where we are going. After all, they are the ones that are going to take us there. Keeping the destination a secret only makes the journey more challenging for others to know if they are doing the right thing.

Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand. Employees seek to sort out what is real and true. They expect their leaders to be forthcoming in sharing where the company is headed and honest about its future. They want transparency so they can understand where they fit in the picture. They first of all want to know how they are personally impacted and then ensure that the changes match with their values.

Transparency is a necessary condition for building trust. When we are not transparent people will fill the gap with their worst fears. In an information vacuum, people assume that it must be bad for them or they would be included in the conversation.

The digital age has changed the levels of transparency that people expect. Consistent transparency is the easiest way to build trust however it does not happen quickly. Email, videos, text messages and other social media can spread perceptions faster than we can redirect them. The only way to stay ahead of that rumor mill is to always be open and consistent in our message and keep the skeptics from dominating the conversation.

The reason some leaders are not transparent is because they believe they will be viewed as less authoritative; they will lose their power, leverage and perceived authority. It is challenging to be a leader and there are times when we may not have all of the information to make a perfect decision. Some managers fear that not being perfect will expose their weaknesses and they hide behind an information vacuum to make sure they are not exposed. None of us are perfect and always right. That is not a realistic expectation and when we are open and transparent, people can see our authenticity. That authenticity actually builds our credibility and makes us a more trustworthy leader in the eyes of those around us.

Employees will enthusiastically follow a leader who demonstrates a true desire to see people succeed. Employees need leaders who want the best for their team members and will do what they can to help employees achieve their goals. We need to show that we are invested in their success and that we are part of the team, not just the people in charge of it.

Effective leaders are confident in themselves, and they project that attitude to those around them. We need to respect the views of others and treat everyone fairly, never speaking negatively about anyone or discouraging them from trying new things.

Most employees want to do their best. They want to believe in their managers and they want their managers to believe in them. A mature leader conveys that we have a stake in individual and team success. Effective leaders continually have their teams’ perspective in mind. We need to create an air of authenticity around ourselves. We project an image of confidence and success that becomes contagious such that our team will willingly go in the direction we set.

It can be hard to measure if we truly are a transparent leader. Here are some questions to help us assess if we are being transparent:

  • Do we genuinely express our thoughts and opinions?
  • Does our message remain the same, regardless of the audience?
  • When we can’t divulge information, do we help people understand why?
  • Do we keep our commitments?
  • Do we admit our own mistakes without blaming others?
  • Do we ask questions, listen to the answers and new ideas?
  • Do we value the feedback of others?
  • Are we candid, open and honest?

The following are 4 tips for ensuring that we are transparent in our leadership: