I often tell people that if you truly want your people to follow your lead you must first take a long look in the mirror for a long opportunity of self-reflection, an evaluation of your journey, followed by an almost cathartic process of communicating your journey to your people.
For me, I started this process of a long look in the mirror in about 2007 after an explosive meeting in which my immature leadership skills failed my team through a tongue lashing given some execution issues in which I had no idea how to bring a solution to. Although as said, in my embryonic leadership skills I tried to bring the solution through a “beating of the troops” methodology. My look in the mirror began almost immediately. But the most important step in the process of getting people to follow my lead occurred in a staff meeting about 8 years later when I fully communicated my life journey with my team. We had made enormous strides as a small business, were growing by leaps and bound, our culture was on its way to fulfilling our core values, but we still had some key pieces of the puzzle to put in place for us to achieve the full cultural indoctrination of our core values. And one of those pieces of the puzzle was for me as the senior partner to not just communicate my life journey, but to tell my entire staff my deepest darkest secrets, my skeletons, my failures, and my vices. This may sound crazy and not necessary to be a leader, and I agree it is crazy if you want to be an average leader. I repeat, average leader. Great leaders in which people will walk through fire for you are completely transparent, and if you expect a very high set of moral behaviors and values to be executed as a team, you must not only act them out but tell them when you violated them.
So on that early morning of 2015, my staff heard everything about me, from a DUI in college, to stealing over $500 worth of signs with college buddies, to a number of things on my wild side most of which they already knew, to my last trip to a dancing establishment and having an $1800 bill, to a vet assistant in which wanted me to cheat on my wife. They heard it all! Seems crazy, seems unnecessary, and I have had a few people close to me tell me that isn’t needed, but for me, to be the best fault leader possible, to have people follow me through fire, I had to be real, raw, make myself vulnerable, and authentic to the core.
The goal wasn’t just to regurgitate my failures. My goal was to get to where we are today, after a 10 plus year intentional plan of action on leadership, in which people can come to work and greatly enjoy what they do, while working for each other not themselves and passionately serving the customer and a purpose far greater than themselves or AMC. And it is in this sort of safe transparent environment in which people can blossom into their greatest self, and be inspired to do the things that inspire them. And when the heat cranks up from a burning fire, our AMC Family doesn’t put the fire out, they will walk on the hotbed of coals right through the fire and look for the next one!
As a Gallop survey says, 82% of managers are pretty much complete failures and less than 1 out of 10 qualify as quality as “leaders”. And the first rule of leadership is, everything is your fault. We must take all the blame, and give it all the praise. But if you want your people to go to war for you, start by simply yet so enormously, telling them your journey. The whole thing, the good, the bad, and the vulnerable aspects that will mean the most to your people. Have the courage, be intentional, and let your team know you aren’t invincible!
PS – do the same with your kids! Mine know the same stories! If you don’t want them to do something you have done, then tell them what you did, how it affected you, the negative consequences, and how life-changing those events are or can be!