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Provide Proof

In a comment this morning, Sue said, “Steve, I really enjoyed reading your book…read it in one sitting in fact. Can you speak more about the “proof” part of leadership? What have been some particularly inspiring examples that you’ve heard about (they don’t have to be famous folks, either…)?”

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First, thanks for the plug, Sue. Proof is the bottom line. As business people, obviously, the proof of our effectiveness is reflected by our results: profitabiltiy, margins, turnover, employee satisfaction, etc. etc.

But for the Extreme Leader it extends beyond the bottom line as well. Simply put, we need to prove that we mean what we say. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner call it DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do. It’s all about the congruence between word and action.

Some managers feel that if they’re the “boss” others should automatically trust and respect them. Har! Human beings just don’t work that way. You want me to respect you? Prove that you’re worthy of my respect. Trust you? Prove that you’re trustworthy.

The best example of providing Proof that I’ve seen in the last 10 years is a Senior Vice President at Bank of America named Dick Nettell. Read a little about him at the Tom Peters Company site. (I led the workshop that he mentions back in 1995–that’s where we met.) You’ll see a few of his many practices listed there.

I talked with Dick a couple of weeks ago, and I asked him to summarize his approach. He said, “The art is in doing it every goddam day.” He proves to everyone, day in and day out, that his words are not hot air.

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