As a leader, you play a key role in shaping organizational ethics. You can create a climate that strengthens the relationships on which your company’s reputation and success depends. This is just as important as focusing on profitability, innovation, and competition. As leaders we have many pressures and challenges to deal with—how can we make time for “Good” leadership?
The highest performing cultures have a clear, well-defined purpose. This purpose is the WHY and HOW of their impact on the world. It’s the reason they exist beyond the almighty dollar. And yes, they also have found a way to make it profitable.
Former CEO of Herman Miller, Max DePree, said it best: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” (Leadership Is an Art, 2004)
This is the essence of what Good leadership is all about. Defining a mission that is bigger than the bottom line and making that part of your reality drives engagement. We all need emotional reasons to do the work that energizes us. Engagement increases performance and loyalty and improves profitability.
In a mission-driven culture, individuals are seen and heard in proactive ways. This builds trust, and culture with trust at its core is 2.3 times more likely to perform well in terms of revenue growth, according to Interaction Associates. Trust increases communication and enhances performance and retention. Such a culture also attracts both new talent and clients.
Gratitude is also essential to Good. The best way to show gratitude is to say thank you consistently and thoughtfully. You express your gratitude in a way that is well-founded and personal. It doesn’t need to take longer than a minute—just a simple email or quick phone call. Saying thank you honors the people you work with. And every one of us wants to be recognized, called by name, and reassured that what we do matters.
As DePree says, a great leader serves. Some of you might think that serving your team is being subservient or weak. But it’s just the opposite. It’s listening. It’s empowering your team to succeed. That takes skill, patience, honesty, and at times some very hard conversations. It’s investing time to know your team so when you do challenge them, your feedback is purposeful and comes from a place of understanding.
Having a clear mission, building trust, and becoming a servant are the ingredients that create a reality of inspired purpose. Reminding your employees often about the positive impact their work is making is a super fuel for the soul—it defines the reality of all the great things you and your team can do together.
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. - Max DePree