This week brought to the forefront examples of “leaders behaving badly.”
In one case, two Michigan legislators refused to resign after their extramarital affair and subsequent cover-up. Both are married with children – and both admitted to misconduct in office and misuse of taxpayer resources.
By refusing to resign the couple forced the state house to hold a drama-filled 14+ hour session – until 4am last Friday morning – to expel the legislators. Eventually one resigned and the other was expelled.
In another case, an assistant high school football coach in Texas was so angered by “bad calls” from a referee during a game that he said, “this guy needs to pay for cheating us” to his defensive backs. Within minutes, the referee was blindsided, tackled, and speared by two players – in full gear, in the middle of a play.
The players were ejected from the game and have since been suspended from the team. The coach has been suspended and is under investigation for orchestrating the attack.
In another case, a presidential candidate mocked the physical appearance of a fellow candidate. In a national interview, he said, “Look at that face! Would you vote for that?”
Whether we’re leaders or not, whether at work or at home or in our communities, everything we do has an impact. Our plans, decisions, and actions are not neutral. They either help, hinder, or hurt the creation of a safe, inspiring, productive environment.
Leaders carry a heavier burden than those without formal influencing responsibility. The burden is that they are always under scrutiny – 24/7. The power and responsibility that comes with their title and position can cause even a casual comment to be interpreted as a command. A dismissive comment carries great weight.
How leaders behave is closely scrutinized, analyzed, and evaluated. Choosing to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity over a weekend? That’s scrutinized. Buying a new car every six months and parking it in a reserved spot just outside the front door? That’s scrutinized.
The burden and scrutiny leaders face is unfair – but it is the reality.
How can you ensure that you – leader or not – are behaving kindly, not badly?
First, understand who you are as a person on this planet. Formalize your personal constitution by defining your personal purpose (your present day reason for being), your personal values and behaviors, and your leadership (or “influencing”) philosophy.
By clarifying these key elements, acting in alignment with these elements is much easier. You’ll scrutinize your own plans, decisions, and actions – as will those around you.
Second, ask others their perceptions of how well you are serving them, enabling their success, and supporting them. Be open to learning that others may see some gaps you need to address. Thank them for their insights and tell them you’ll work to align. Then, work to align! And, ask again, regularly, so you know if you’re on the servant leadership track.
One more thing: if you formalize your personal constitution and have a purpose, values, behaviors, and leadership philosophy that is entirely self-serving? Expect that the feedback you get won’t be pretty, and the scrutiny you experience will be from a very disappointed constituency.
Go with servant leadership. It’s much more gratifying, creates greater productivity, and builds others up. What do you have to lose?
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