Category Archives: Character-based Leadership
The oft-quoted (and also mis-quoted) proverb “You can’t save your way to prosperity” has a much more pertinent meaning for business.
Many companies, small business as well as large corporations, have struggled when they focus so much on the bottom line that they forget how to move forward and drive top-line revenues.
A Forbes article last month detailed how an entrepreneur’s previous startup consumed him because of the fear of financial losses. Worried too much about pinching pennies consumed him even though the company had millions in revenue.
He discovered that focusing solely on the bottom line was no way to run a business, let alone give himself any peace or lasting satisfaction. Once he discovered what he was doing wrong, he stepped back and formulated his next start up with a focus on driving revenue and creating value.
I often say that the problem with most floundering businesses is that they changed their game plan and started playing defense penny-wise when they should be more on the offense in building value for their customers. Simply stated, by having a vision towards building loyal customers and a complete value in everything you do will help get a company moving forward and not restrained by decisions on what to spend or not spend.
Penny pinching and bottom line focus shortens an organization’s vision and take the eyes off of most everything else, particularly your company values and mission statement. Granted, profitability should be a goal; however, having the right internal systems should ensure profitability flows down through from the top line revenues.
And yet, sales is not the be-all-and-end-all. Many companies are great at getting the sale or driving revenue, but create little lasting value that builds trust or commitment form their customers.
Creating value comes not only between your customers and your organization, but also a holistic synergy within your company that transcends the inner workings and augments that trust and commitment from your customers.
When a customer sees that your company will follow through to make things right for them, or that your team works in alignment with your core values which in turn prove your organization is what it says it is, you create a value that enhances the transaction-based part of the relationship. This creates more intrinsic value beyond what you bring to your customers, a value that you can never build focusing on the bottom line and pinching pennies en route to success.
Running a business with the majority of your focus on the bottom line is “penny-wise and pound foolish”. The best success comes by creating not just sales, but value beyond the transaction. Spend your efforts on value.
Over the weekend I came across a series of content by a leadership author who heavily discounted what they would proclaim as so-called leadership experts.
As I mulled over their claims, I realized how many people in higher levels of leadership discredit others because their credentials don’t seem to be to their standards.
Let’s calibrate our understanding of what experts are:
- a person having a high level of knowledge or skill in a particular subject (Cambridge Dictionary)
- having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
We should also review the definition of a leader:
- a person who manages or controls other people, esp. because of his or her ability or position (Cambridge)
- a person who leads (Merriam-Webster)
It is essential here to point out that in none of these definitions (or others) is there a criteria for PhD’s, MBA’s, being on a board of directors, authoring books, teaching at universities or needing any other qualifying experience or education.
Unfortunately people who look down on others in this fashion tend to do so from an aura of superiority, resting on their own laurels. Experientially these people tend to be the least teachable and most difficult to create an engaged team that will trust and rally around them. They place themselves in a position of higher criticism and use their sole judgement to assess who is worthy of credibility.
And what these folks do is exhibit the same poor leadership behaviors that they denounce in their content. They place roadblocks into building another person up or giving them a platform for voice and value in what they know.
Here are some real-life situations in which someone has discounted another’s opinion because it didn’t meet the person’s prejudices:
- Engineering experts who told Henry Ford his V8 engine idea was impossible
- A restaurant executive who discounts others input because no one who is not a chef can talk about food at their knowledge level
- Critics of Gary Vaynerchuck simply because he struggled in school and just rants about social media
- Tenured university professors who discount the education and real-life experience of adjunct faculty
- Football leaders and experts discounting Tom Brady in their scouting report
- Leaders of all kinds of levels and organizations who devalue the input of front line managers
Leaders and experts don’t need to have letters behind their name or have high-level positions.
As I have mentioned before, teenagers and the person you meet in everyday life can be effective leaders. All someone needs to be an expert is experience and the application through study and practice of their daily sphere.
The greatest experts in the field of leadership will tell you lifting others up, giving them value and a voice, and offering them a platform to showcase their talents is what true leadership is about.
Being an expert and leader is more than just letters after a name. It’s about the application of real-life principles to teach, lead and positively influence your sphere.
The power of the spoken word is immense.
It has the ability to inspire, motivate and lead others to an amazing effect. It also has the ability to humiliate destroy and the more allies a person is value and self-worth.
Words can build up or tear down, the choice is yours.
Because most of our communication – whether it is spoken, transcribed or digital – we need to be cognizant of its impact on other people. It’s easy to point fingers at other people‘s words but it needs to start with each of us individually and how we can edify (or detract from) another person’s value.
Be mindful of our words that criticize, embellish, are colorful and unprofessional, that are used to elevate yourself above someone else. We may do this under the guise of telling it straight but in reality it can cause divisiveness, disengagement and loss of credible influence.
While we all want to be honest in our communication, great leaders and great people know how to balance the any conversation with an overwhelming desire to use words that build, restore, inspire, encourage and create a positive impact on those they are intended, and not intended, for.
Use your words wisely.