There is an old saying about those who have climbed the ladder of success, which is “The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more of his butt you’ll see.”

What this means is that as you achieve higher leadership roles, the more you will be scrutinized regarding how you treat others, how you perform your work, your ethics and integrity, and your credibility with others.

So let’s talk about how you, as a new or established leader, can understand what others are looking for and seeing when they view your ascent into leadership.

How You Treat Others

It takes a concerted effort on the part of the leader to establish the relationship necessary for a solid leader-follower partnership.

Being in a leadership position should not insulate you from the heartbeat of the organization. Taking the time to venture into work spaces and talking at a level that displays that you are, in fact, human is by far the easiest way to break down perceived barriers between leader and led.

Showing that you care about others makes a huge difference in earning and maintaining mutual respect and gaining trust.

Followers can sense when a leader has self-confidence, which is a trait consisting of self-esteem and self-assurance that is essential to motivate followers.

Further, understanding the needs of followers and providing a welcome workplace culture increases morale and provides the proper environment that breeds communication, confidence, and productivity.

Followers tend to feel calm, confident, have faith in the vision, are willing to help, and feel that the tasks are less difficult when the leader acts with common sense, decency, and intelligence toward others.

How You Perform Your Work

Not only is hard work expected by others as you ascend to leadership roles, it is the quality of work that is expected as well.

Earning a leadership position means that you have displayed the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead the organization to the next level – and now you have to prove it in your performance. In a previous article, I wrote about the Leadership Characteristics Set© that provides a solid set of characteristics needed for outstanding leadership, which are: likeable, ethical, accountable, decisive, encouraging, respectful, sincere, helpful, intelligent, and perceptive.

Having and/or acquiring these characteristics will assist you in displaying to others your dedication to your people and the organization.

Leadership Skills Checklist

Your Ethics and Integrity

Promoting the highest standard of professional ethical norms and values is paramount to ensuring you portray yourself properly to others.

Norms are established standards of conduct that are expected and maintained by society and/or professional organizations. Knights and O’Leary (2006) state that ethical leadership cannot exist without some attempt to overcome the preoccupation of one’s self.  “The moral project is one of responsibility and the heart of ethics rests in the face-to-face interaction with the other” (2006, p. 133).

Leaders must recognize that they not only serve their enterprises, but also act as stewards of society in creating, facilitating, and executing the efficient and effective transactions that are part of the greater economy.

In this role, leaders should embrace the highest ethical norms of practicing professionals and the ethical values implied by their responsibility toward stakeholders as well as the people who make the organization run.

Your Credibility

Credibility, especially through communication, provides employees clarity on their work and how their work helps to reach the organization’s goals, and demonstrates your dedication to them.

Having credibility with others provides a level of confidence to them that your expertise is both reliable and relevant.

Being knowledgeable of the subject matter and using that knowledge to be decisive in your actions provides both individual and organizational direction, but also confirms your position as a leader in the organization.

Having or establishing credibility cannot be understated – without it, others will question your capability to lead and will question the organization’s direction under your purview.

Show Everyone You Belong High Up in That Tree

The importance of displaying how you treat others, your performance, your integrity, and your credibility provides the catalyst to cementing yourself as a bona fide leader in the organization.

Effective leadership and personal success are due largely to our experiences, our self-awareness, and our empathy for others.

All of these factors can be learned and enhanced, and you should take every opportunity to augment your leadership portfolio to be the best leader you can be.

As a new leader you will certainly be scrutinized. However, being confident in your abilities, possessing solid leadership characteristics, and leading with a purpose will ensure that those who work for and with you will look up in that tree and see a strong and deserving leader with nothing to hide.

How High Can Leaders Climb?

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

Would you like to contribute a post?

Knights, D. & O’Leary, M. (2006). Leadership, ethics, and responsibility to the other. Journal of Business Ethics. Vol. 67, pp. 125-137, Retrieved April 25, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database.

Dr. Greg Halpern
Greg is a performance improvement consultant with the DoD. He holds a M.S. Degree in Applied Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins, and a PhD in Organization Management with an emphasis on Leadership from Capella University.