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Are you a Leader or Just Taking a Walk?

There is an old Afghan saying which is "if you think you're leading and nobody is following then you're just taking a walk." I see this many times in my working life and I have to say it's not just limited to the construction sector!

This is all about the shadow you cast as the leader of the business, as people within it will follow your lead and mirror your behaviours. I'll give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago I was working with a company who were attempting to gain ISO accreditation. Now, the CEO was a badge hunter, lets be honest about that, and I don't think he really understood the implications of ISO and his role or responsibilities in leading the project.

So, we worked hard to develop and re-design processes. We took time to communicate these to all concerned and their role in sticking to them and making them work. We put processes in place to identify and implement training where required to ensure people understood the processes and could deliver to it. Everyone was on board, well at least we thought so, except the MD who felt as the "boss" they should be doing it but if it didn't suit him, he didn't have to stick to it. The result, well I think you might be able to guess that. Processes not followed by anyone as they adopted a "we'll do as you do" approach. A complete waste of time, money and effort! The shadow of the leader was not present and therefore he was just taking the walk.

As the leader you set the temperature of the business. The chances are if you're having a bad day, so will the business. If you're not in the mood to work, then neither will the rest of the business be. If you decide to cancel things at the last minute then everyone else will think it's OK to do the same. If you promote a negative attitude to customers, so will the rest of the team. It's a bit like COVID-19. It's contagious and if the business catches it it's difficult to survive.

I've been speaking recently with a firm of accountants about this and what needs to happen to resolve it. The problem is that there is no clear leadership approach from the MD and the directors and no uniform approach to the business. The situation is this:

  1. the MD is a workaholic and their PA is the same

  2. Director 1 - works quietly and so does their PA

  3. Director 3 - is a chatterbox who spends most of the day doing that but works out of the office to catch up. Their PA just chats..

  4. Director 4 - is in effect a workplace bully and their PA is the same

The MD will develop new processes to speed the work up but there is no encouragement for others to embrace or embed these into their working practice and so confusion reigns. The challenge is huge for this business as you can see.

Your leadership style is important, not only to you but to everyone else in the business and beyond. Casting a positive shadow is key, even if you're not in the mood to do so. It's like walking through an imaginary curtain as you enter the business. Problems, challenges etc, should be left at the door. This can be difficult I know, but I also know MD's that do it and create a positive atmosphere in the business which infects people with a positive vibe.

So, what are you? The leader who inspires confidence and fills people with positivity, or the one who causes confusion and division? Do you give life to the business or kill enthusiasm and innovation? Are you a good and decisive decision maker or a prevaricator who's trying to make the perfect decision and wastes time and misses opportunities as a result? Over to you..... are you leading or just taking a walk?

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