A Fish Stinks from the Head Down

Sunday, March 1, 2020

By: Beth Meixner

When I read the title of an article by Marcel Schwantes published in 2018 by Inc. magazine, I just had to read it. The article was entitled “7 Harsh Truths That Will Improve Your Leadership Skills Overnight.” Like many of you, I am on a constant quest to become a better leader. And, if you know me well, you know I like a quick fix. So the notion of learning seven things overnight seemed like a no-brainer.

The article cited the well-known truism that employees do not leave bad companies; they leave bad bosses. With only 30% of the workforce actually engaged, we have to ask why. More times than not, those in power are not qualified, are too egocentric, have tunnel vision or no emotional intelligence. According to Schwantes,“You don’t manage people; you lead people and manage the work.”

I constantly hear stories about dysfunctional and nasty mangers. I am told far too often that the top leadership doesn’t walk the talk. We all know that actions speak louder than words. Leaders who profess a certain culture and then don’t follow through create employees who will do the same. Each time I hear a horrible boss/company anecdote, I know why this is happening; it’s as clear as can be – a fish stinks from the head down!

I believe that if managers adopted the seven pillars of good leadership cited by the article’s author and listed below, employee engagement would dramatically improve.

1. Be a Servant Leader – liberate people to freely collaborate without fear

2. Inspire Trust – create transparency, confront reality, talk straight and right wrongs

3. Listen to Feedback – be open and accountable

4. Be Positive (even when things go bad) – see opportunities not challenges

5. Don’t Procrastinate – have a “Do It Now’ attitude

6. Have Strict Boundaries – say no to things/people that don’t add value to your life/business

And an unusual twist:

7. In the End, It’s about Love – not in the traditional sense, but as coach Vince Lombardi wrote: “I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates, but as their leader, I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization.”

It’s the love for what you do, how you feel about your colleagues and your organization’s mission/culture that cause you to show up for them.

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