Saturday, May 24, 2008
I took this picture this week at an airport in San Diego. Crazy, isn't it? But it got me thinking about the mixed signals we send to our teammates. When we say one thing and do another, we generate this same sort of confusion. Here are some examples:
-- You are empowered. (Just ask me before you do anything bold).
-- People are our most important asset. (As long as we are profitable).
-- Keep me posted and let me know what you are doing. (But don't expect me to answer you -- I'm real busy!).
-- People are free to be themselves. (As long as they fit within our very narrowly defined culture).
-- Don't waste my time. (But it is okay if I waste yours!).
-- We invest in our people. (But we're too busy to train).
-- Hold each other accountable. (But don't tell me if I'm letting you down).
-- Failure is simply an opportunity to learn and grow. (But you're out of here if you make a mistake).
You get the point. Leadership is about walking the talk. It's about consistency between our language and our actions. And it's about avoiding the kind of mixed messages that this picture represents.
One leader who embodies the "walk the talk" approach is Mr. Herb Kelleher. Wally Bock writes in "Three Star Leadership" about Herb finally stepping down as Chairman at Southwest Airlines. I had the opportunity to have dinner with Herb about a year ago and truly believe that he is the real deal. His approach to Servant Leadership is genuine. People truly are first at SWA.
Thanks for the post, Wally. Congratulations Mr. Kelleher on your amazing ride. And thanks to all of you for what you do to avoid mixed messages, to "walk the talk," in your respective professional lives.
That's Leader Business.