It is an interesting “coincidence” that my list of leadership traits fell on the word “ethical” on this particular date, 12/24/10, when I found a few minutes to write again.
Most folks wouldn’t think of ethics as something a house can emulate. We are comparing houses to leadership traits, because of the philosophy here at Sapphire Enterprises that the key to all good leadership is a strong foundation. And houses do indeed have something to share regarding ethics. A well built house is well built everywhere, even when you can’t see it. Finishing details do not cover up poor work; the structure and wiring and plumbing and everything underneath have the same high quality as the pretty wallpaper or nice fixtures.
This is as it should be with ethical leadership. If we talk the talk, but we are rotten underneath with a hidden agenda, we aren’t truly leaders. Is it all just lip service, or do we mean it? One quick way to find out about yourself is this: how many times have you passed someone in the hall at the office and asked “How are you?” and actually stopped to listen to the answer? It’s a small detail, but it says a lot about whether your words and your intentions are aligned. It’s perfectly fine to greet someone with “Hey” or “Good Morning” and not ask how they are. But to ask and then keep walking is a small insult that adds up over time.
When we are building relationships, which is the only path to great leadership, we have to actually care about the person involved. This cannot be faked. If you can’t really bring yourself to care, with true emotion, about the people involved in your work or project, you are probably doing the wrong work!
I want to note that I’ve not said you have to like everyone. Liking someone and caring about their welfare are two different things. And caring only about their productivity is not the same either. That’s a motivation for selfish reasons. Do you actually care underneath it all about the person? If you do, and you try to align their talents with the job they have to do for you, everyone will win. You’ll have better productivity because you have a happier, more fulfilled employee!
There are rules about how involved you can get in an employee’s personal life. I’m not suggesting we violate those, of course, but it doesn’t preclude us from stopping and listening to the answer when we ask the question “How are you?” I learned this from a wonderful boss once, during a particularly bad time in my personal life. He came to my office one evening and asked “How is it going?” I answered with details about the departments I was managing, and the productivity of my staff. He listened, but then he asked again: “No, Lisa” he said, “How are YOU?” It was a profound moment of leadership for him, and I’ll never forget it. He didn’t need to do anything for me; just knowing he cared enough to ask, and listen, made a world of difference to me. Thanks, Sam.
I’ll end on a note of personal privilege. If you want to say Merry Christmas, please say it. If you prefer Happy Hanukkah, then you should respond accordingly. If you like Kwanzaa, then that’s a good response to my “Merry Christmas” too. I truly believe that if we all have our own greeting and the response by others was in their own method, unashamed, we’d open the doors of understanding and grace that we are seeking in the seasons we celebrate.
Thank you for reading, and may you have a Blessed Christmas, and a Peaceful New Year.
Copyright Sapphire Enterprises LLC 2010