Pack Leadership: Consistency

Posted on August 3, 2009

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Kai, flat-coat retriever/chow mix; and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai, flat-coat retriever/chow mix; and Rustle, miniature poodle

I used to struggle with my dogs’ daily walk. They got over-excited, and it was tough to calm them down enough to get leashes on them. Once we got out the door, they tugged me all over the place. Fortunately, I was watching The Dog Whisperer already. I insisted on calm, submissive behavior before putting on the leashes. I stopped walking until the tugging stopped. I walked them at the same time, over the same course, every day. I established consistency, and the dogs accepted it quickly. At the same time, they taught me which dog wanted to walk on which side, and which dog needed a pinch collar, a choke chain, or a harness. My dogs are individuals, and they had individual needs.

Many of us have heard something like, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” and think that to be smart we have to avoid consistency. The actual quote, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, is, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” I added the italics.

In business, we should suspect consistency. Bernie Madoff’s returns were far too consistent, and several people and monitoring groups sounded alarms before his Ponzi scheme collapsed. Senior managers in any business suspect that consistency indicates a failure to identify new opportunities or advantages. That’s definitely a foolish consistency. If you see it, your people are resting on their laurels, or manipulating the data. Dig into it!

What if you’re a leader, though? A leader must be consistent, within human limits. That does not mean you should treat everyone the same way. That discourages innovation and creativity. Rather, each person on your team must know that you are fair and objective. Your behavior toward each person must not surprise that person. I’ve led teams where some people needed weekly feedback, and others needed daily. I consistently gave each person what he (or she) needed. As a leader, you can’t take your bad day out on your people.

Business practices should be agile and alert. Leading people requires consistency.

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Posted in: Leadership