Dann Principle #5: The Leader Truly Leads – Professional Growth Systems

Dann Principle #5: The Leader Truly Leads

This is our 5th in a series of posts reflecting on Dann’s Principles of Management, nine principles I wrote up over 30 years ago, and still find relevant today. Review the whole list here. or to view full descriptions on each of the remaining eight principles, check the links at the bottom of this newsletter.

Walking the talk really is important

So what is the 5th Principle? “ An organization is only as great, and its employees only as committed, as they interpret the leader to be.” In short, leaders truly do lead, in one direction or the other.

Before reading further, take a moment to think about the great leaders you have worked with. Go ahead, name them.

Now, what made them great in your eyes? What impact did that greatness have on you and on the organization?

The absolute key

If you are like me and countless others I have talked with, you would say that the great leaders separate themselves by demonstrating what they want of others. They are an example to follow. They never ask of someone else what they are not willing to do themselves. In short, they have integrity. They themselves are what they profess to be important.

Yes, there are other characteristics you might name: courageous, principled, generous of spirit in giving credit to others, believing in their followers, visionary, etc. But, it has been my experience that these characteristics are overshadowed or overlooked if the leader lacks integrity (def: steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code, the state of being unimpaired, soundness.)

When we look at a chair and say it has integrity, we are meaning that it can be depended upon. We know if we put our fanny in that chair, we won’t fall to the ground. We have faith in its soundness or completeness. We feel safe. That is more important than the aesthetics of the chair, assuming we are going to actually use the chair.

Visions, speeches, creative strategies—those are all terrific, but if they are not built upon a foundation that has integrity, the leader and the organization will fall short of its aspirations.

Followers of leaders with integrity want those leaders to succeed. They will devote themselves to that end. Hence, the level of leader integrity determines the followers’ level of commitment and, in large measure, the accomplishments of the organization as a whole.

An integrity checklist

The challenge with this principle is that it is difficult for a leader to truly know how he or she is perceived. If they bugged the water cooler, coffee maker or rest rooms, they might know, but otherwise it remains hidden. Not knowing the whole truth of what is or is not happening in an organization undermines many a great leader. Only the most high performing of management teams consistently speak the whole truth, especially of and to the leader.

Secondly, auditing oneself for integrity will likely be inaccurate.

However, if what I am laying out here rings true for you, the following assessment of your own integrity can give you a solid start for moving forward. Give thought to the following self-analysis questions and look for areas of improvement:

  1. Do I strictly follow the principles, rules, policies I am asking others to follow? (e.g. be on time, no cell phones in meetings, etc.)
  2. Do I blame others for non-performance, or do I operate on the principle that I must first look to what I have done or failed to do that contributed to the problem?
  3. Do I take the credit for good results, or do I give the credit to others who indeed made it happen?
  4. If I expect others to do whatever it takes, am I willing to do the same? (e.g. make copies in a crunch, help others who are struggling, work late).
  5. If I am effectively holding others accountable, do I also hold myself accountable? That is, do I honor the agreements that I make? (Agreements to meet, agreements to review draft material, agreements to coach, etc.) Honoring even the smallest of agreements is vital to integrity.

If you believe they will be truthful with you, ask your team or direct reports to give you feedback on these points.

One last thought, if the organization is not performing as you wish and the commitment of team members is below what you want, begin your problem solving with this self-audit before looking for causes and solutions elsewhere.

What’s been your experience?

I am interested in sharing your experiences with our other readers.to get in the conversation.

If you are interested in learning about Dann’s Principles 1 – 4 and 6 – 9, or the list as a whole, click on any of links below:

Introduction to Dann’s Principles of Management

Principle 1: There is Another Side to Every Issue

Principle 2: What is, IS

Principle 3: There are Politics in Everything, Everybody

Principle 4: Performance Set By Example

Principle 6: Being Honest

Principle 7: Consistency

Principle 8: Two Way Dialogue

Principle 9: Everyone will Find Fairness Somehow