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Are You An Appropriate Role Model?
With Leadership Comes Responsibility

June 2017

Chris McDonell, President of McDonell Consulting & Development, Inc.

One of the more important, but less specifically defined, roles of a leader is to be a role model for their team members. Among the key characteristics of a positive role model for a leader are consistency, fairness, empowerment, courage, vision and motivation. Let’s look at these in detail.

Your credibility with your team depends largely on whether your actions and words are consistent with each other. If they aren’t, then you are engaging in manipulative, even dishonest, behavior, and your team’s loyalty is at risk. For example:
• Do you do what you say you’re going to do?
• Do you deliver on your promises?
• Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?
• Do you tell things like they are?

If you display any inconsistencies between your words and actions, you are denying others the chance to respond naturally to what you are saying or doing.

Be fair in your treatment of team members. Work with them to set their personal standards. This will be part of goal setting and performance reviews. Fairness demands that everybody is bound equally by his/her commitment to those standards. Fairness also demands that you hold everyone equally accountable – no excuses for the top performers or the manager. Do not blame, but don’t excuse away poor performance. Fairness, in the context of a team, means that you also do your share of the team’s work. Don’t use your position as manager to keep all the prestigious clients for yourself or to delegate all the dull work elsewhere.

People sometimes use blame as a strategy to get others to take ownership of problems. But this approach often backfires because people begin to equate acknowledging mistakes, and surfacing bad news as punishment. When this happens, two reinforcing set of behaviors emerge: one by managers who are ostensibly seeking information and then punishing those who bring bad news, and the other by groups of employees who hide information and try protect each other or blame each other!
• Mistakes will not be admitted.
• People deny problems rather than solve.
• People instill fear in each other rather than value.

Empowerment means giving your team members some of your authority and autonomy – without giving it all away. As the leader, you still hold the final authority (usually) and make (most of) the tough decisions. But in empowering your team, you work for a balance between controlling and guiding them. By giving them some authority, you enable them to work more effectively when making decisions and implementing solutions for their customers. Of course, to wield that authority effectively, they also need knowledge and information.

Courage is certainly a characteristic that you must cultivate for yourself. As a leader, to be effective with and for your team, you need to have the courage to say and do difficult things. Your job involves dealing with company management, disciplining and firing employees, and giving bad news about sales results or projects. You also need to have the courage to face reality and make others face it by pointing out problems that others prefer to ignore and by acknowledging your team’s errors.

However much you empower your team members, your role as leader requires you to lead the team effort to create and pursue a vision. Because you operate outside the team – working closely with company management, for example – and with a broader scope than your team members, you are best suited to formulate the team’s vision. The vision, like the team’s purpose, should be strategic and grand. It is, after all, the expression of what your team feels most strongly about its purpose. The vision is a motivating force, connected to the overall success of the business.

Motivation is central to your role as team manager. Motivation involves giving encouragement, opportunity, recognition and occasionally persuasion. As a motivator, you make opportunities for the members of your team. Give them the chance to try new things (and the freedom to make mistakes without failing), learn new skills, get the big sale – and the credit. Do not let individual team members fail; help them overcome mistakes through learning and problem solving.

A good leader will care enough to expect excellent results from his or her team. I95

Chris McDonell, President of McDonell Consulting & Development, Inc., a licensed Sandler Training center based in Baltimore, has over 25 years of experience in sales and executive leadership. He has lived and worked around the U.S. for some of the world’s leading financial corporations, such as Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and The Associates. Chris has been with Sandler Training since 2008 and has formed successful partnerships with both small and large companies in a wide variety of industries.