Deliver the Promise

We've had a couple of posts about character based leadership as a starter for discussions that will take place at LeaderPalooza Feb 19-20, 2010 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  You can find the other posts on character-based leadership under the titles Sources of Leadership and Three Promises of Character-based Leadership.  Also, you can click the LeaderPalooza logo or this link to find out more about the un-conference.

Promise implies hope.  Our last post assumed that your organization had the hope of at least three outcomes as you apply leadership inspired from who you are and not what title or role you play.

Character isn't the only factor that affects an organization's ability to realize the promises. Character must be joined by Competence There is no substitute for achieved goals or exceeded expectations.  If you're a developing leader (aren't we all) you must remember in every conversation about leadership, positive results are a prerequisite for everything you read.

Today, leaders don't have followers any more than politicians or barbers do.  (In fact, the hairdressers may do better than the politicians!) Leaders have contributors.  The New Orleans Saints just won the Super Bowl.  The leaders on that team don't have followers, they have teammates; fellow contributors.  Their fans are consumers and there are many suppliers but the best leaders and great organizations make their customers, suppliers, and communities feel like contributors too.  Contributors volunteer to cooperate.  They're free agents.  They volunteer to contribute even if they directly report to you and you do their annual performance review and sign their paycheck.  Even your children choose their level of buy-in.

Contributors vary their energy and enthusiasm depending on their belief that your leadership will create "wins" for them.  People can be energized to contribute based on your charisma, your power (or positional authority) and your character (who you are on the inside).  All of these factors are valueless unless your contributors achieve some success.  In fact, every team or organization is only sustainable to the degree it can keep every contributor feeling some level of success.  If your managers and stockholders don't realize results, they'll remove your positional authority.  If the contributors don't have a win, they will reduce their contribution and their energy.  Vendors withold support, customers take their business elsewhere.  In the absence of success a charismatic leader becomes ineffective; a positional leader begins to look like Dilbert's boss, and even a person of great character loses their ability to inspire the effort necessary to win.

Sustainability in leadership demands results.  Stakeholders, shareholders, contributors and customers measure their contribution against their return and their expectations and continually adjust their contribution based on that evaluation.  If they don't win, eventually you won't influence.

Can you see some parallels to today?  What leaders do you see teetering on the brink of diminished influence for failing to deliver?