I believe a good leader absolutely must be a consistent leader! Following through and doing what you say you are going to do is imperative.
Why? What does it mean to be consistent as a leader? Does it mean inflexible or “not creative?” Does it mean that you are “set in your ways?” How can a leader do the things leaders are supposed to do –like “stir the pot” when things are too settled– and be consistent at the same time? Not only is it possible to do both, it’s critical to do both!
Think about it. If you continuously take a stand and say you are going to do something “from here on out” and a few weeks/months later you no longer do it or have forgotten about it, what does this say to your team? It breeds a “this too will pass” culture. In other words, when you as a leader are attempting to get something going or to affect a change, the team will stand back, less than willing to act, to see if this time around you mean it.
Because consistency is so crucial to effective leadership, I often say, “don’t make a rule, implement a new policy, or make a decision that you are not prepared to enforce.” Meaning if you’re not planning to “actually do” what it is you are about to mandate, don’t bother; it will do more harm than good.
It’s an issue of “credibility” isn’t it? Over time, a lack of consistency will result in a loss of credibility. You know … loss of “leadership chips.” To be effective, a leader must have “earned” lots of chips from those she/he is responsible for leading. When you are constantly changing directions –without good reason that everyone can see of course– you lose a few chips. Before you know it you’ve got a “negative chip balance” with your team, and you’ve lost.
How does the leader’s loss of credibility (lack of leadership chips) play itself out day-to-day? After all, the boss is still the boss. Right? If the boss swoops in and makes a change to something she/he has already agreed to and the team is burning the midnight oil to get it done on time, don’t the subordinates have to do what the boss says? Of course, he/she is the boss. But that’s where it ends. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. When the boss is not around, the team doesn’t have his/her back. When others challenge the decision, the team will –often with their body language– not support the decision. You know a subtle grin, shoulder shrug, or roll of the eyes. A “don’t ask me … she’s the boss” culture develops. Not good!
As time goes on the team is less than willing to act on a decision. “This too will pass, so I don’t want to invest any time or energy into making it happen.” A “this too will pass … failure to act” culture will bring an organization to its knees! It will drain the life out of the organization and cripple its effectiveness!
One final thought on this topic deals with a leader’s ability to make good decisions. If the leader is constantly changing directions, isn’t the issue indeed decision making? To make a decision, a leader must gather facts, solicit input, pray/think, consider all the options, and choose a direction. Right? Once this is done, though, a good leader knows the long-term health of the organization depends on staying the course and seeing the decision through.
Are you a good decision maker?