Goals are the mountains that you say you are going to climb. They are not small tasks, nor do they encompass all work that you will do.
Setting Useful Goals
In this time of spectacular organizational collapses, caused by leadership failures in organizations such as MCI, Enron, and HealthSouth, organizations need their leaders to follow the law and provide honest value to shareholders and employees. How can leaders maintain their integrity and thereby preserve the reputations their organizations have labored for years to build? Our work with executives has led to the following suggestions for the leader:
1. Flesh them out.
All leaders are under pressure to deliver results, and sometimes this may mean crossing the line between ethical and unethical behavior. In a complex world, smart people can always find ways to push the limits, and doing this often brings benefits. A leader who pretends that pressures to cheat don’t exist is like a doctor pretending that germs don’t exist. Talk with your colleagues about the real pressures you are under. Turn the lights on so you and other leaders can see and combat these pressures.
2. Share them.
Where is the line between the ethical and unethical, legal and illegal, appropriate and inappropriate? What specific behaviors will you personally vow to avoid? Often leaders are able to privately draw the line between right and wrong, but they know they will need to cross it, so they never get around to publicly stating where the line is. For example, they believe in following the law but they also believe they need to bend the law to stay competitive. This is how well-intentioned leaders get in trouble. Be explicit about what constitutes unacceptable behavior.
3. Address stressful personal conditions.
Extreme needs lead to extreme actions: people do unhealthy things when stretched to their limits. Take care of your mental and physical health and look for ways to care for the health of other leaders in the organization. Identify and help those individuals that may be suffering from acute financial or personal stress.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
Reflect on the people working around you right now. Are they role models for you? Do they share your values? Have you considered personal character in hiring people? Even as adults, we can be powerfully influenced by our peers. Choose your coworkers for their character.
5. Explore the legacy you want to leave.
In ten or twenty years, what would you like your employees, kids or grandkids to say about you? What would you like historians to write about you? What impact do you want to have on the world? Gifted leaders can often benefit from a more long-term consideration of how they wish to use these gifts.
6. Acknowledge the cost-benefit ratio of integrity.
Doing the right thing can have real costs — losing deals, making less money in the short run, missing out on rich opportunity. These costs need to be framed simply as the cost of doing business, like buying insurance. And like insurance, doing the right thing serves to protect you and the organization from catastrophic loss.
7. Build authentic relationships.
Look for opportunities to form partnerships that are characterized by honesty, mutual care, and open communication. Strong relationships generally help leaders maintain their integrity by keeping them connected with the needs of other people and by exposing them to the guidance and counsel of people who care.
8. Set an example of “authentic” leadership.
Impression management — trying to make a good impression – helps leaders build trust and credibility, but when taken to an extreme, it eats away at authenticity and undermines credibility. People need their leaders to be “real,” to project who they are and what they stand for. Real leaders attract real followers.
Work Effects provides leadership training, coaching and 360 degree feedback.