Doing Leadership versus Talking Leadership

It is a study in contrasts – doing versus talking. Having worked closely with approximately 300 senior management teams, I have seen it all. Relative to this subject two interesting case studies come to mind. As in most things, the issue requires only a simple illustration. Frank, the president of a client company having 150 employees was a starched white shirt/necktie kind of guy… a rare bird these days. Shortly after we had launched our Equishare System, whereby every employee would participate monthly in the financial performance of the company, Frank came to work in blue jeans and a sweat shirt. NO ONE had ever seen him dress like that, ever. Well it happened to be the last day of the business month and every order that shipped would obviously increase sales and help drive financial results. Better financial results meant more profit and more Equishare bonus for every employee. So, Frank came prepared to spend the day in the shipping department packing boxes. Frank was helping employees ship product AN earn a bigger bonus! He was the talk of company – all day and for weeks thereafter. Was his presence critical to the department? No. Was it critical as a leadership statement? Yes. There was nothing he could have said that would have spoken louder than his actions. No demand made, no shipping forecast recited, would have amped up the performance more than the sight of Frank in a pair of Levi’s in the shipping department. Needless to say their Equishare program went on to be a huge success for the company and it’s employees. Not because Frank wore blue jeans to work, but because his actions were symbolic of his leadership style. Engaging, visible, in the trenches, how can I help, let’s do this together style. In the words of the country song, “A little less talk and a lot more action”. Frank’s employees were engaged.

Frank contrasts with another company president, Dave (not his real name). Dave was a smooth talker and eloquent spokesperson for all that his company could and might do, but so far hasn’t. He was particularly good at providing monthly excuses for the organizations lack of performance and blaming his management team… which he replaced on a regular basis. His style was one of great public speaking with zero operating leadership. He was always there for the speech, never there with a solution, never in the trenches. And the results? As you would expect – none. Dave’s employees were actively disengaged.

The lessons here? Get out there and do something VISIBLE, frequently, that sends the message that business results are important. Excel graphs and charts on the wall are no substitute for the presence of seniors leaders who are genuinely interested in their employees and their performance. Then share the results of winning with the team. Shared goals and shared rewards (properly designed) is the glue that binds the organization together. Engagement is not about individual employees being happy, it’s about the team being effective. And effectiveness requires visible leadership.

Two of my favorite quotes…

The late Admiral Grace Hopper once said ” Assets are managed, people are led”. I assume she did not like the title Human Resource Manager.

Greg Groeshel said “when people fail to achieve an outcome, it is usually because we have failed to lead them to the desired outcome”. That level of self assessment requires courage.

Equishare… a tool for leadership to define, measure, pursue and reward organizational performance.



About Karl F. Muller

Specializing in driving Organizational Performance to new levels. Utilizing a tactical and focused four (4) part strategy to engage all employees in the pursuit and achievement of performance and real financial results. Applicable to manufacturing, service, distribution and corporate services groups. We have worked throughout North America with businesses and facilities ranging from 50 to 5,000 employees, union/non-union. Define... Measure... Pursue... Reward. Celebrating our 30th year. 200 public speaking engagements, 5,500 senior managers trained, 700 organizations assessed. We are serious, tactical, focused. No fancy corporate speak, no blue suits. Just Results. The Muller Group, Inc.
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