What do your actions say about your Leadership?

GV how you do anything

Fergus Conolly is the author of “Game Changer” and someone I follow closely around his learnings on elite performance across multiple sports. He recently shared an article from The Observer about Marcelo Bielsa, a legendary coach now leading the once great Leeds United. In Fergus’ tweet he highlighted a snippet from the article, referencing the manager being told that the average fan has to work three hours to pay for a ticket to a match:

“he told them that, for the next three hours, they would be picking up litter from around the club’s Thorp Arch training ground. He wanted them to learn a lesson; to appreciate how the fans laboured to fulfil their passion”

The short article is excellent and speaks volumes about actions both small and large that Bielsa insists on and that he has shown again and again with teams he has coached will turn into results on the football field. I then retweeted Fergus’ post with a favourite line:

“How you do anything is how you do everything”

I wrote a blog with this title some months ago referring to how leaders can pick up how their team members really are, as you won’t see this fully in front of you as they will be consciously respectful and you may not see their true self. In that blog, I noted:

“..watch how people treat those who they feel don’t matter to them. When you are in busy public places, do they act in a considerate way to others or just push past in a single-minded fashion? In a restaurant, how do they treat the staff? Do they thank the bus driver when they get off the bus? In general, are they present, observant of other human beings, no matter their station or status?”

Today’s post has the title “What do your actions say about your Leadership?”, so today I flip from observing the behaviours of those who follow you to asking you to question yourself. What do your own actions as a leader say to those who follow you?

As a Leader, you are always being observed, and often observed very closely, and everything you do indicates who you are.

How you do anything is how you do everything

I have too often been asked to come into organisations where the top leadership are talking about changing the culture, the vision, the values, and yet story after story reflects that among themselves some or all of them fail to reflect this in their own actions, yet action is not taken. Senior leadership may not fully recognise this, but their people are always watching what they do and how that reflects upon what they tell their people to do.

I once saw the leader of a country’s National Olympic Committee open a speech at an event to celebrate the team flying around the world to compete. Their speech opened with words to the effect of “everything we do is for the athletes”. The next day they all flew on that long trip, and the committee members were in first class, the athletes in economy class.

How you do anything is how you do everything

For clarity, I won’t ever work with businesses who talk a good game about their values and culture yet don’t live it in their actions. When turning down such opportunities, I am often then asked by a board director or other person of influence what they could do. I normally start with the emotive line: “a fish rots from the head”, ie to really create change their own action must involve making change at the very top, no matter how brave that may feel to them.

Now, just this week, one example from the UK media of the impact on the credibility of a leader from the phrase:

How you do anything is how you do everything

Cutting to political leadership, on Monday this week Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement to mark 56 years of Jamaican independence noting: “The contribution of Jamaicans in the UK and abroad is huge – long may that continue”. Laudable, yet prior actions of this leader had this land with a loud thud to the intended audience, who dismissed it as opportunism at best and desperate grasping for popularity as a worse interpretation.

Why ? I could almost audibly hear the collective kissing of teeth in disdain from every Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora person reading that statement from the same person who created, maintained and continues to build upon the philosophy of “hostile environment”, creating a huge atmosphere of “othering” of people “not like us”. Simply put, those of Jamaican origin in the UK feel palpably less welcome under the actively pursued immigration policies of Theresa May than they did before her, so her words on Monday rang worse than hollow.

Earlier, in May, I had the privilege of attending an event celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Cayman Island Coat of Arms. As it was held at the Foreign Office headquarters, the then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was asked to open with a speech. He spoke about the friendship and close ties between the UK and Cayman. To say his speech was received with an icy atmosphere belies quite how cold the reception was. You see, less than a few weeks prior, he and his government had ignored agreements made with the Cayman Island Government to serve their own political expediency in other areas.

How you do anything is how you do everything

Beyond those examples, how about you in your organisation then?

If you are a leader, it is one thing to talk about vision, values and culture, but do you ensure that the way the entire organisation operates is in line with that?

I’m sure your gut response is “yes, of course!”, but in decades in business and over a decade supporting brave leaders, nothing in life is absolute, and it is in the moments of truth, small and large, that we demonstrate our leadership.

Even when it hurts our commercial results, even when we put our own job or ourselves at risk. Fire that client, make a decision that reduces your profit margin, stand up for what you stand for, what your organisation stands for.

As I wrote in “We can all be brave leaders through our individual actions“:

“All we need do is simply take a stand for what we believe in, by simply being of integrity to that and acting from that place. Leaders who do not, lose their followers.”

To go back to today’s title, do consider, what do your actions say about your Leadership?

How you do anything is how you do everything