Leadership Soapbox – It’s what you do that counts

How to behave to be a good leader


Hi, my name is Neil Poynter and welcome to the Leadership Soapbox.

What I’m talking about this week is our behaviour as leaders, does it matter?

And if it does matter, how do I know what to do? How do I build that? Why do I need to worry about it?

Okay. So let’s start from the beginning.

Does it matter?

The simple answer is yes. How you behave, how we behave as leaders has a massive impact on the people who we are responsible for, who are in our teams, who are in our departments.

But why does it matter?

Okay. Let’s start digging into this and I’m going to give you a bit of theory here. I’m going to come from two angles here.

Steven Covey in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by the way, really good book. If you’ve never got into personal development and you are scratching around the surface and wondering which way to go, big hint, have a look at that book.

He talks about the difference between being principle centred and personality centred. And personality centred he talks about being driven by fads the latest tool, there must be a new way of doing things that will make me better.

What he means by the principle focus is there are certain inalienable principles about the way in which we operate. And there are some principles here for leaders. People want to be able to follow us. They like a good leader. They like someone they can get behind.

Now, what is it that actually allows people to do that? Well cuts to the 1980s and a book, “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner, in it, there’s some research. And they, I’ll cut through how they did it. But what they ended up with was a list of the key characteristics that people wanted in their leaders.

Nothing perhaps new there. What was new was that they kept on repeating that research over a few decades. The top four principles or characteristics never changed and there was about a 14 to 20% gap between fourth and fifth. So these four core principles have stood the test of time. Now I’m going to get rid of the fourth, third and second first.

Forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. Now I’m probably going to pick these up in another video but the one I want to talk about is the one that has come top of that list of desirable characteristics for leaders for over 30 years now. You probably can guess where we’re going here. And coming in at around 82 to 84%, so that’s the number of people who have put it in their list of key characteristics, and it dwarfs everyone else. Second place is 66%. So this is figuring in 20% more of people’s lists. It’s honesty.

People want honesty.

Now they then did some research into what that meant. What it is, very simply, is that people do what they say. They live by their words. They are seen to be what they espouse to be. And that’s very much tying back into what Steven Covey said about being principled.

If I go to my experience in the army, being at Sandhurst as an instructor at Sandhurst, the importance of leading by example, of doing what you ask others to do, or that you set a standard, you live by it yourself. It’s more than just that though. We have to know what we believe in.

And one of the things I wanted to spark for people today is perhaps that desire to find out what your own principles are.

What do you believe in?

What are the things that are important to you?

What are those core beliefs around what is important?

Now, what we’re doing here we’re now touching onto what I’d call emotional intelligence. Self-awareness. Knowing where I come from in myself. And this I think is a key facet of any leader and manager. We know where we’re coming from. We know what we believe in. We’re clear about our own principles and values about how we’re going to operate. I think it’s also about facing up to when we make a mistake and having the moral courage to stand in front of our people and go, “I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have done that.” To apologise.

We are after all human. But what this allows us to do if we know where we’re coming from, if we know our values, if we know our principles, it allows to behave in a truly authentic way. And when we’re authentic, everything in this lines up. And you know when someone’s being authentic. Their body language, their voice, everything about them is joined up and you just feel it. And you may not agree with what they’re saying but you feel their authenticity.

So that’s about, that’s what this is all about. What are your values? What are your principles? What is it that drives your behaviour and how can you perhaps be even more authentic as a leader at work or in your organisation?

Okay, that’s it for today. You know, let’s have a discussion about this. What do you think are the key values and characteristics of a leader?

Do you believe that we can be honest all the time? That’s an interesting debate point.

Now, if you’ve liked the video, please hit the like or subscribe. Let’s have a conversation. The email’s at the top there. And if I can help in any way, what would you like to develop in your own leadership? How would you like to develop your own authenticity? Get in contact and let’s have a conversation about how I can help. Thanks very much for listening.