It’s election year and the campaigns are running fast and furious this season. The message of a campaign encompasses the concepts the candidate wants to share with the voters. The candidate is attempting to get those who agree with their ideas to support them. In many elections, the party opposing the candidate will bring up policies or personal attacks that are not related to the overall contest. Regardless of political affiliation, most people would agree this pettiness is unethical and detracts from the meaningful issues that truly matter.
The fierce competition got me thinking about how leaders in business behave in their own leadership campaigns. How people act as they ascend the corporate ladder and how they act once they are firmly seated in a leadership position both play into this concept of running a leadership campaign. There are those people who promote their skills, standards, and morals to make it to the top and there are those who step on others to get to where they want to be. Which candidate for leadership would you support?
FINDING THE BALANCE
While leadership in the workplace doesn’t have be political, it often can seem that way. As any politician will tell you, striking the balance between fighting for what is right and remaining personable are often at odds with each other, and this can be the case for business leaders as well. But the best leaders, both in the political sector and the business world, are those who fight for what is most meaningful to them while remaining ethical and approachable to their constituencies, as well.
Think about a business leader that you admire. Chances are you admire them because they are willing to go to bat for the things that matter, hold firm to a good sense of right and wrong, and are still someone you would feel comfortable approaching at any time. That is a person whose leadership campaign is well run.
The hopeful leaders of our cities, states, and country are promoting why they should be our new leaders. When campaign advertisements are mentioned, often times a groan comes from the audience or opinionated remarks are made. Why is this? Some might argue that it’s because many of the candidates are dishonest in their campaigns. Unfortunately, too often there is an advertisement or a debate smearing the other candidate at whatever the cost, even honesty.
Similarly, effective business leaders should always stick to promoting their own ethics, values, morals, and what they stand for; not slandering another person in the organization, whether it be another person competing for their job or just a colleague. Effective leaders tell the truth. When they don’t know the answer to a question, they forthrightly admit it and promise to find the answer. Admitting that you do not always have all of the answers is in fact a sign of strength.
Strong and effective leaders take responsibility for their actions and do not sidestep the issue at hand or point a finger at others’ mistakes and blunders. Everyone makes mistakes, and effective leaders own up to them.
Effective communication and strong listening skills are key to developing trust and connecting with people. If the employees or voters are unable to connect with a business leader, they will lack the respect needed to follow that leader in a new direction when the time comes. Just as a political candidate will lose the vote of someone who doesn’t see what they have in common with the candidate, so too will business leaders lose the confidence of their teams. Keeping promises is critical to maintaining that confidence. Leaders should never make a promise they cannot or do not intend to keep. That strategy always comes back to bite politicians and it’s better left out of the workplace.
Communicating ideas in an honest and effective way is key to running any ethical campaign. Equally important is accurately representing the views of any opponent. In the game of business, influential leaders should accurately refer to their competitor and never lie or otherwise smear a company’s or individual’s reputation. Being critical of a competitor is often viewed as just a cheap shot — an easy way to try to cast a negative light on someone else. The best leaders are those who are able to identify reasons that their skills, their products, their company, are better, without ever having to mention a competitor at all. Personal attacks not only are disrespectful, but also defeat the purpose.
Strong leaders are keenly aware that their teams are always watching and they want a leader who is clear, concise, straightforward, and addresses issues of significance without getting into a “playground tussle” with a competitor.
Equally as important as outward communication is a leader’s ability to listen. Political candidates are not elected if they don’t listen to their voters. Leadership, to a large degree, is all about being an effective listener. If your teams do not feel that you are listening, they will not follow or respect you as a leader. It really is as simple as that.
Effective leaders promote how they can make a difference in the lives of others, display compassion, and maintain integrity, even when the chips are down. Leaders who possess these qualities and promote ethical values in their everyday lives are those who have strong teams that are willing to stand by the leader’s decisions. As Steve Jobs said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”