#6 Barrier to Leadership – Inconsistency

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Effective leadership is all about being consistent, both in what you say and what you do.

Do you ever get frustrated with those around you being inconsistent?

Recently, I was visiting with several employees about the changes that they would like to see in their organization.

They said, “I would just like to come to work and feel like what I am doing is the right thing to be doing.”

“What do you mean by that? Do you lack self-confidence?” I asked.

“NO!”, they said emphatically. “We hear something different every day. Different expectations and directions result in constant confusion.

We talk about this all the time among employees. Why aren’t our leaders on the same page? If they don’t know what they are doing, how are we supposed to know what to do?”

Self Discipline

After this conversation, I got to thinking about the discipline it takes to be a great leader. What kind of discipline? Self-discipline. The ability to consistently send a unified message and be consistent in your attitudes, emotions, behaviors, and actions throughout the day.

This is very similar to exercising – you have to do it consistently to get results.

This article is definitely not for the weak, as self-discipline is hard work. It isn’t the concept of being disciplined that is particularly hard, as leaders always strive to be their best.

What makes self-discipline a leadership challenge is ensuring you are consistently interacting as a leader and staying disciplined to maintain this consistency over a long period of time.

For example, as leaders, we are on stage every waking moment:

  • When you get out of the car and head to work
  • When you walk by a piece of trash on the floor
  • The tone of your voice when you are frustrated
  • The look on your face when you are walking by people
  • The reaction that you have to bad news.

Does this sound like John Quinones’s “What Would You Do”?

Actions Speak Volumes

These are just a few examples of areas where leaders must stay disciplined while contending with the complexity of work. Staying consistent with who you claim to be is not as easy as it sounds. Your actions do speak louder than your words.

What do we do to keep our leadership skills fit in order to be consistent?

What I’m going to say next is intended to increase our awareness: WE really are not doing what we think we are.

In other words, we have Leadership Blind Spots! We think we are consistent, but we are not. The reason that I can make this statement is that I am working with very effective leaders every day. These people are good at what they do.

They really think that they are doing their best, and I believe that the only reason they are inconsistent and sending the wrong or mismatched message is that they don’t realize how much their behaviors impact results.

Common Inconsistent Leadership Messages

  1. Talks about having a sense of urgency but doesn’t show up on time to meetings.
  2. Talks about communication but doesn’t return email or phone messages within 24 hrs.
  3. Talks about accountability but doesn’t follow up to see if people are doing what has been agreed to.
  4. Talks about integrity but doesn’t admit they “don’t know” or made a mistake.
  5. Talks about how others need to develop but don’t spend time developing themselves.
  6. Talks about trust but doesn’t trust others to do their job.

The inconsistency in what we say and what we actually do creates a huge gap in consistency, resulting in lack of credibility, which results in low morale, which results in low productivity, which results in lower profits, which results in . . . . (I think you get the idea!)

Consistency Action Plans to Start Immediately

  1. Become more aware: Being late to a meeting is a big deal.
  2. Get your act together: Before eagerly evaluating others, evaluate yourself. Make the necessary adjustments starting today.
  3. Visualize someone sitting on your shoulder all day: People are watching you to see how you respond to daily situations. Be a consistent leadership example.
  4. Take time to recharge your batteries: Being consistent every moment is fatiguing. Remove yourself from the public arena and unhook.
  5. Ask others what you can do to be more consistent in your leadership approach: You will need to ask them three times (so that they feel safe). They will be able to tell you if you are sincere.
  6. Take a minute and list the inconsistencies that you experience with leaders. Your feedback is important to our leadership skills.

How Can You Stay Consistent as a Leader?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained over 30,000 leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Masterclass helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders.
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