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I like to think, respect is the gift you receive when people trust you.
Do you remember Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy line “I get no respect”? I believe leadership and respect are connected at the hip and if you get “no respect”, the problem is your own.
This past week we got to see two examples of this relationship with the NFL and Apple. NFL leadership was tested by the growing controversy around its replacement officials and Apple’s leadership was challenged by problems with their Maps application, which affected millions of iOS users.
National Football League Dilemma. Until late last week, regular NFL officials were on strike. Games were being covered by replacement officials, who only had small college and high school game experience. While they were good people, I’m sure, they weren’t experienced in handling the speed and rule complexity of the NFL. As the season entered its third week of games, it was clear the level of respect the players and coaches had for the officials was hitting rock bottom. People didn’t trust the officials to make the right calls. Furthermore, the respect everyone but the owners had for the League’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, was declining. They didn’t trust his judgment in believing that replacement officials could call the football game correctly.
Then things got worse. Every football fan has seen “the play” several times. Even non-fans have seen it because it was on every network. The play was a game-ending catch in the Packers-Seahawks game that gave a touchdown and the game to the Seahawks. Millions of people watched the replay over and over again and very few thought it was a touchdown.
We know referees make mistakes and that is why the NFL decided to let important plays like this one be reviewed. So the game’s head referee and an NFL expert looked at a video replay of the play from different angles. In this case the replacement head referee didn’t reverse the call. The touchdown and game went into the books as a win for the Seahawks. The NFL then did what they had to do - they backed the officials.
After the League took this position the respect for Goodell and the League really headed south. Why? Because the integrity of the game had been lost. People didn’t trust Goodell’s judgment. It was no coincidence that Goodell made sure the strike got settled before the next week’s games – he could feel the disrespect people had for him and the replacement officials inserted by the League.
Apple and the Map Application Dilemma. At the same time, Apple Computer was wrestling with their own dilemma - the iOS map application loaded on the new iPhone 5 didn’t work right. The Apple Faithfuls were really upset. Many people wrote about how this was CEO Tim Cook’s fault and this kind of mistake would never have happened if the late Steve Jobs was in charge.
However, Tim Cook took the high road. In a letter to customers who purchased the phone he apologized. He wrote, “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”
I think it is fair to say Steve Jobs wouldn’t have apologized. This letter fit Cook’s style and has been perceived by most people as honest. Even though many people are upset and frustrated with the App problem, I think it is likely they trust and, therefore, respect Tim Cook a little more.
So cherish respect and its source, people’s trust - it is the gift that keeps on giving.
I’m in the middle of the book George Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow, which is a very compelling book on this wonderful leader. When we read about George Washington it is easy to see why he was one of the most admired leaders in history – he had immense credibility. Friends and foes alike recorded many stories that described his integrity, vision, inspiration, and competence – all critical elements of credibility. Since I think every responsible leader should yearn for and try to earn credibility, let’s take a look at how that can happen.
In their terrific book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner write about their 30 years of research into leadership credibility. Every few years they send a survey to about 75,000 people around the world and ask them to identify the “seven qualities that they most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willinglyfollow.” With almost no exception the four qualities that top the list are: “honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.” The authors point out that since “trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism” make-up what is called “source credibility”, then they suggest we look at the four qualities followers suggest are most important to assess a leader’s credibility.
I’d like to use examples from four leaders I think have or had credibility to discuss the four qualities. They are: General Colin Powell, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch.
Honesty. To be frank, I wasn’t one who initially thought we should invade Iraq. But then I watched General Colin Powell present evidence to the United Nations on why Saddam Hussein and Iraq were serious threats and I started to change my mind. I remember thinking when we attacked them, “if General Powell says it is okay, then it must be the right decision.” Why did I feel that way? Because I trusted what he said. Although we found out years later that the information he relied on was wrong and he should have pushed for more confirmation, it doesn’t change the fact we trusted him. My perception of him was that he was honest and I could trust him; a view shared by millions of others. I think this video of Colin Powell gets at the essence of what he thinks leadership is.
Forward-thinking. We commonly refer to this as “vision.” Followers admire leaders who have a deft ability to not only describe a desirable future state, but who can help everyone get there. They help followers do the right things that assure the group gets to that future place. I think Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote his powerful “Letter from Birmingham Jail” this week in 1963, gives us a great example of a credible leader who was forward-thinking. If you have never actually read his “Dream” speech, you should. King masterfully weaved-in visual metaphors that inspired followers then and inspires followers now to “let freedom ring.”
Inspiring. The third quality of leaders who have credibility is inspiration. Yes, some leaders display charisma, which inspires followers, but others can inspire with just their behavior. Inspiration moves followers who watch or listen to what leaders say and do. The late Steve Jobs, certainly a successful business leader, who is viewed as credible by many people, was definitely inspirational. In the video “Revenge of the Nerds – Great Artists Steal” Larry Tesler, one of Jobs’ close employees at Apple, described Jobs’ this way, “When I wasn’t sure what the word ‘charisma’ meant, I met Steve Jobs, and then I knew. He wanted you to be GREAT and he wanted you to make something that was GREAT and he was going to make you do that.”
Competent.The fourth quality of credibility is competence. This means the followers believe the leader has the experience and talent to do the job. It doesn’t mean they have the talents, knowledge, or skills to do every job in the organization, it means they have what it takes to do their leadership job. One of the most competent business leaders of the 1990s was Jack Welch, who was the President and CEO of GE. During his leadership tenure at GE he not only completely transformed the company; he created business practices that are still used today in many businesses. As President he led an annual, 30-day review process called “Session C.” These were intensive reviews of talent and business units where his overall knowledge and talents were on display. It has been well published that nearly everyone who went through this process left impressed with Welch’s competence, although not his tact and grace sometimes.
Credibility is not easily measured and you really can’t judge yourself; it is something others do. However, if you yearn to be a credible leader, invest your energy into developing these four qualities, and then behave consistently, you might just earn it.
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients. READ MORE >>
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.
Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.
Strategic Planning - Many organizations have a plan or pieces of a plan, but only a few have a thoughtfully developed strategic plan. Strategic planning is a process that has a beginning and no end! It starts with the formation of a mission and core values statement. The process continues with the development of a vision statement, long-term objectives, regular SWOT analysis, strategies, and short-term objectives. We can help you achieve your Strategic Planning goals.
Organizational Development - An organization is a group of people working together for a common mission. As the organization succeeds, more people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are involved and the organization grows more complex. Culture, structure, and systems evolve to deal with these growing complexities. Leaders at all levels develop. Ask me how we can help you achieve your Organizational Development goals.