22 Jan Leadership Advice: Leaders Do The Right Thing
Here’s a piece of leadership advice: leaders do the right thing, even if it isn’t popular.
Leadership Advice: Doing the Right Thing
The recent tragedy of the slaughter of 26 innocent children and adults in Connecticut set off a firestorm of controversy on the gun debate in America. America is struggling now to figure out how to reduce gun violence. The NRA is steadfast in their position for the Constitutional “right to bear arms.” Amidst the furor and outrage, US President Obama decided that it was time for him to do something even if it was not politically popular. In bringing forth his proposals he said, “we need to do the right thing.” Even though many in his own party don’t agree with him, he felt he needed to act. Regardless of whether you think gun control will solve the problem or where you stand on the issue, what struck me was the President’s use of the words “do the right thing.” It is risky to challenge the status quo by taking an unpopular position, but that is what leadership is about and why my leadership advice is all about stepping up and doing the right thing.
Leaders Step Up
This is as true in business as it is in politics. Often as leaders (and we are all leaders) we must make the choice to risk popularity or take on strong interests because we feel it is the right thing to do. Stepping up means choosing to take some risks for what you believe in. Leaders are constantly faced with making tough decisions but the hallmark of a good leader VS a great leader is the bravery to do the right thing.
For example, an order comes from above in your organization and you feel strongly that it is the wrong decision for employees or customers. Did you take the risk to do the right thing and speak up?
I have seen leaders step up to do the right thing on issues like sustainability taking on initiatives to do good in the world that may not initially win over the shareholders since the bottom line impact may not be immediate, but over time doing the right thing far outweighs any quick profit at the cost of doing harm.
I give about 70 talks each year to companies in various industries, and I am always inspired hearing countless stories of people stepping up to make a difference and create change. It may be challenging a negative colleague, a person pushing their company to do the right thing for customers, or fighting for an idea you think is worthwhile even if it’s not popular. If you have read my book Stepping Up you know that the Starbucks Frappuccino only happened because a few people fought for the idea even when management turned it down.
The right thing could, for example, be turning down a piece of business when the client can do it more efficiently without your help. Years ago I heard a story at Total Systems Services, the credit card processing company, where a salesperson told a large bank that they did not need them to take over their credit card processing and that they merely had to tweak their existing system with their help. One of the values of their company was “do the right thing.” In the short term, they got a much smaller contract but long term they gained a stellar reputation for integrity.
So, on a day to day level, what does this mean to you? Here is my leadership advice for stepping up and doing the right thing:
- Maintain your integrity and principles over profit even if it costs money in the short term
- Risk speaking up even when it’s not popular
- Hold fast to your convictions in the face of opposition
- Listen intently and openly for criticism and suggestions
- Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong and have the courage to make the appropriate changes