As Leaders, Should Our Employees and Followers Do as We Say or As We Do?

If you send someone an invite. Someone whom you have known since you were 8 years and they were 7 years. And till this day calls you a friend. It is an invite to be a guest speaker at an event of your company that you are organising. They respond saying that they no longer do public speaking. But two weeks later and everywhere you turn, they’re speaking at all sorts of events. Not far fetched from the topic you wanted them to address because that is what they do. And if they wanted to change the topic you had given them, but still addressed the issue, you would have been fine with that. But the answer was clearly: I no longer do public speaking.

What is the message to being sent based on that answer?

“One of the best opportunities you can be given in life is to be underestimated.”

The answer in this case is not important as much as the opportunity to self reflect on what you say and what you do. Working with a leadership team last week, I asked them to complete a personal wisdom questionnaire. One of the questions was about their core values. Everyone of them included “honesty”. So when we discussed their collated responses I decided to precede the discussion by playing a snippet of an audio book by Lee Child called The Affair that I am listening to at present. About a conversation where an army investigator calls the young boy to his face ‘Ugly’ and the boy laughs and agrees. You have to hear the entire book to understand the context and the protagonist, Jack Reacher’s character.

The discussion with the leadership team ensued about what ‘Honesty’ really means. The conclusion was that:

  • The core values that we say are important to us talk to our ‘ideals’, not necessarily reality. We interpret and act out our values depending on various factors.
  • We like other people to be honest towards us, but we are honest depending on……(many rationalisations and situations)
  • What a core value like ‘honesty’ means to one person may be different to another. So in teams it important to not assume, but to talk about what type of behaviours would convey that value in a specific context and amongst specific people  (i.e. leadership team or an organisation)

The team did do a lot of Soul searching.

I hope this conundrum exercise will do the same to you. The beauty of being Human is that we are not perfect. Most times we don’t even know ourselves as much as we think we do until we are tested. So many of what we say we value gets tested when a situation presents itself. If we lose our jobs. Cannot feed our families. What would we do that we would not in times of plenty? If a person is standing over your child about to do them harm. You may not have thought yourself capable of taking another’s life. But at that moment, what would you do?

Many of us may have been fortunate till now not to have confronted extreme tests to our core values so far. So let’s us not judge others. My friend lied. That is her path to walk whatever her reason is. I do not judge. I continue living my values responding to the tests in my path as best as I can. Living consciously. Whether you choose to be a liar (situational or not). At least be aware of what you say and do. People cannot know your Intentions. We just see your behaviours. Are they aligned to what you say? Ultimately that is what makes people be inspired or admire us. Well some people just need you to be famous or have positions of influence. But that is another discussion about what makes them value that. But for others. It is substance. What they say and what they do is in sync. Those are the people that engender trust. Are you trustworthy?  Only you can know.

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