Leadership Excellence? Just Be a Better Person.

“So,” I asked the COO of a major healthcare institution, “how would your wife score you on showing appreciation for her as a partner in your marriage?” Hesitantly, he replied, “I think a 2 maybe.”

He knew a “2” on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the best score) wasn’t too hot. After 15 minutes of debating and defending himself against low scores from his direct reports on “showing value and appreciation for others,” he had finally gotten the point. Executives who learn about themselves as leaders sometimes also come to a better understanding of themselves as fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, parents, and friends.

Transparent behaviors that build credibility and generate trust aren’t just for the leader-follower relationship. They are important in any relationship. “How would your kids see you in keeping promises?” “What would your brothers and sisters tell me about your willingness to admit mistakes?” Sometimes an executive’s developmental plan for improving his leadership also addresses issues with his family, his marriage or his personal life.

I cheered with a VP in Englewood, CO, who arranged for a babysitter, made dinner reservations, and drove his wife 20 miles to downtown Denver for a Saturday night stay. Sure, he needs to show more appreciation for his direct reports, but right then he wanted to start with those people a little closer to him.

An executive at a book signing a couple of weeks ago said, “I liked what you had to say about being a better leader, but if I do these things, I think it will really make me a better person.”

That was BINGO for me.