When it comes to a common operating picture or consensus for leadership it is often hard to find one. There are so many varied definitions of leadership, just a simple Google search and you will discover at least 20 before getting onto page 2. Each of these definitions, though, provides us with a lens through which we can think about leadership to inform our perspectives, approaches and attitudes towards leadership. Each of them have some kind of merit but very few get to the heart of a leader and really consider the gravity of leadership.
I have been reflecting recently on a definition of good leadership that I believe is actually very powerful, it is; ‘leadership is a relationship of consistency’. The reason I love it so much is that it focuses on the two things that, as leaders, we often forget about. We forget about the power we have through our relationships and forget that consistency is such a key component in building trust and safety. So let’s break these two points down and explore them individually before we bring them back together.
Ultimately leadership is influence and the way we use our influence is through our relationships. It’s a natural part of being human, we are influenced by the people around us and we also, in return, influence them. Humanity is constantly partaking in this cycle of influence and most of us fail to recognise not only the influence that people have on us but the influence that we have on others. Maybe it’s a reflection of our humility that we don’t assume what we do or say has an impact on anyone else but when you step back and analyse the power of your influence, you really start to realise the impact that you are having on those around you.
Often as leaders without that reflection we become absorbed with our own needs and wants rather than the needs of others. I was recently listening to a talk from Simon Sinek and he says “the cost of leadership is self-interest”. Essentially this is the opposite of good leadership, when we become self-absorbed as leaders and focused on our own interests, the relationship with those in our team or those we are leading takes the greatest impact. Our focus should be on setting out to serve those we are leading, rather than using them for personal gain. Quite often when we act out of self-absorption or pride or for status, we leave the people around us behind.
Relationships are the capital we use to lead and how we build our vision. A leader without followers and strong relationships isn’t a leader at all so therefore a leader’s most important asset is their relationships. With relationships that can build a great culture, a leader is halfway there because relationships are only 50% of this equation.
Consistency is the golden leadership key, it’s all well and good to have an idea for the future or run a team building day or create some model of change within a team but without consistency across our leadership we will never be successful. Consistency is so important in our ability to build a great culture within the organisations or communities we are leading. Consistency plays out through three key aspects:
- Consistency means that the people you are leading know who you are and what you stand for, you are consistent with your approach to leadership and culture. This means that as a leader you know your values well and you know why you turn up every day. The vision of your organisation is clear and it’s not just a poster on a wall. You are the living breathing embodiment of what it means to be a part of your community.
- Emotional regulation is the sign of adulthood and it is definitely the sign of a great leader. This doesn’t mean you don’t show emotion. On the contrary, it actually means that the people your leading don’t have to wonder what version of you they are going to get today and no matter how things are going at work they know that they will get a version of you as a leader that is level headed and fair. This in turn affects how the people you are leading have to regulate their own behaviours because if a different version of you keeps showing up then your team ends up worn down managing their own emotions based upon yours. When your team knows who you are and what you stand for then they get an opportunity to feel safe and empowered in an authentic culture. This is consistency within leadership!
- Consistency also doesn’t mean we never change how we do things. What it means is when we change, we change in line with the vision we have set out for ourselves. If we have consistency with change it means that the map has been laid our for your team and everyone is clear upon the direction. A lack of consistency would look like constant change for changes sake or every time a leader has a new idea we change direction.
When we have consistency, we have emotional stability at work and we know with emotional stability, we can create an environment where those we are leading flourish!!
Relationships and Consistency
Ultimately, leadership is great when these two concepts play out together. Without relationships we don’t have followers and therefore leadership is null and void but without consistency within those relationships, the people we are leading struggle to find safety and stability when they show up in our communities. Relationships build a culture and consistency maintains the culture!