There is a lot of bad news in the news these days. Especially when we just look at people who should be leading–if not formally, then informally due to their position as a public persona–but aren’t leading anyone in the right direction.
Uber’s last CEO was…ahem, interesting. Hollywood is, sadly but not surprisingly, spilling over with less than great “leaders”. Even the U.S.’s most recent leadership changeover has been rife with turmoil, mud-slinging, and finger-pointing from all sides.
A company. An industry. A country. Leadership at any level is hugely contested and highly scrutinized. And it should be. The fact that it’s in the news, while sad and frustrating, is also a good sign of people noticing terrible leadership and calling it out.
I was in a discussion on Twitter recently about leaders, and someone mentioned that we glorify CEOs a bit too much. Y’know, they’re probably right. But CEO’s do carry a lot of the weight of a company. They make major decisions that influence the minor decisions of everyone else in their company. So, like with Uber or any of the previous examples, when the culture turns toxic, the finger points straight to the top. The top is setting the rules which allow for the toxic culture, so of course to some extend, it’s their fault.
But leadership is so much more than just making the rules.
Leaders should be promoting good. You aren’t leading without making a positive impact; you’re just dragging people down. And yes, a positive impact is really the only option, because neutral just doesn’t cut it anymore. People get away with too many bad things in a setting that isn’t actively establishing a positive culture.
Leaders should be lifting people up. Company leadership, especially, has so much influence over the lives of others: their pay, their schedules, their environment for 8 of their waking hours, and to a great extent, their happiness. They should be rooting for the people they lead to succeed, because when the people around us succeed, we succeed. When the foundation succeeds, the top usually does too.
Leaders should be kind. They should be courteous. They should be communicating. They should be positive, team-builders, people who listen to the people around them and do the right thing, or as close as they can. Basically, leaders really just need to be good people.
This doesn’t just apply to the top levels of leadership. We are all leaders in our own spheres, or we can be, especially within companies. Any employee has the opportunity to lead the way with new ideas or new traditions, good daily habits or conflict resolution. Employees can call out leadership that isn’t behaving like leadership should. It isn’t easy. It takes being brave, and sometimes, standing alone. But it’s so worth it. Years of bad behaviors and toxic cultures could be reduced or avoided if more people were willing to step up and say,
“We will not accept this behavior anymore.”
Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen a lot of that recently. It’s been great. Harrowing, but great.
Plenty of people will say: “But what about making money? Aren’t top company executives, like CEOs, there to watch out for the interests of the company?”
Of course they are! And they should watch out for their companies! They should be trying to help their company succeed! Yes, yes, and yes!
That doesn’t mean they can’t be people-conscious, or build good cultures. Culture is what you do and how you do it. So yes, they should be making money. The way they do it, as any news report these days will tell you, matters more.
Businesses–or simply, making money–isn’t inherently bad. Businesses bring out great ideas, they improve peoples’ lives, they provide safe and stable employment for people. I, for one, am so grateful for grocery stores so I don’t have to grow my food, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that make way better food than I do, technology companies that help me communicate across the country to my family, and every single company that employs one of my family members. I’m even grateful for Hollywood, because gosh I love movies. I hear they even do little things like, y’know, stimulate local economies where they shoot movies because they buy food, hire extras, stay in hotels, etc.
Business can do so much good, and we want them to do well. But when it comes down to money or people, we should be picking leaders that always pick people first. Without hesitation, even, dare I say it. We want CEOs, presidents, managers, supervisors, and employees who make solid business decisions and treat people well too.
None of these ideas about leadership are new. Integrity, honesty, communication, and kindness are simple and ancient concepts. A general sense of altruism is what sets humans apart from the animals. If every one of us committed to being a great leader–from any position in a company or society–our companies, our communities, and our cultures would be much better places to work, live, and grow in.
We shouldn’t be glorifying great CEOs anymore. We should just be choosing more of them.
How can YOU be a better leader?
How can YOU be building a better culture in your workplace?
I don’t care what you do or what level you’re at. There is always some good to be done. Let me know what you decide to do by commenting below or Tweet to @McCall_Culture.
Let’s get out there and be leaders of good.