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Optics and Leadership

Sometimes it is incredibly important that you not only DO the right things, but that you be SEEN to be doing the right things.

A recent case in point was when the leaders of all three US automakers flew in private jets to Washington to ask for a handout! The outcry was loud!

How about the $2.5 Billion bonus paid to the employees of bankrupt Lehman Brothers. Another high profile situation that evoked a negative response and rightly so.

On a much smaller scale I was a little surprised on a recent flight from Toronto to Ottawa. As the owner and CEO of a national staffing company I headed to the "cheap seats" for the 50 minute flight. Meanwhile I noticed the Executive Director of a national, charitable, voluntary sector organization sitting in business class. It is not an organization that gets my money ... however EVEN if the seat was a result of upgrades (no idea) the optics were not good.

There are many, many examples of why it is important to live your principles, and even more importantly be SEEN to live them. If you are a leader and want people to operate in a certain manner then you need to set an example.

- If you travel business class and expect your team to travel economy it will cause resentment.
- If you want your team to be frugal and smart with their expenses then you can't go first class with yours.
- If you want your team to work hard then you can't do otherwise.
- If you want your team to demonstrate a commitment to ethics then you had better set the right example there too.

There are of course exceptions to every rule ... but generally speaking leaders set the example. If you are not willing to do it the be very wary of asking your people to do it!