The Power of Leaders That Do What They Say

Guest post from Bethany Andell:
“To believe in
something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Recently a CEO friend of mine said that the three key
ingredients to building a great culture are:

1) belief in the mission,
2) clarity of the vision and
3) having fun while living the values.
There is a growing movement in the business world that
proves all of these points to be true. I have seen in my own business, and also
in my clients’, that clarity of vision and passion for purpose are instrumental
in long term success. However, having a clear purpose and vision alone are
often not enough – his third ingredient, “living the values,” is critical in a
company’s ability to bring its purpose to life. Even further, the key to that
statement is the word “living.” 
To walk the talk as a leader should be an easy concept –
just do what you say. Instead, what is probably more accurate is the phrase
“easier said than done.” When companies list their values on a poster in the
breakroom or on their website or even state them in a town hall they somehow
expect everyone to adopt and abide by those values. But then you turn around
and the same leadership team that posted the values is behaving in a completely
contradictory manner – and you wonder why we don’t trust leadership.
Disturbingly, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed 63
percent of its survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all
credible. Well… how many of you have heard a CEO say that his people are the
company’s most important asset, but all decisions seem to benefit the investor
over the employee? How many times have you heard that a company’s value is
safety or quality, but an employee gets in trouble for calling out an issue?
How many of you have heard a leadership team say they are accessible, but
there’s a security code required to enter the executive suite?
In general, I would argue that most business leaders are
good people with good intentions that unfortunately make some bad moves. It is
hard to always walk the talk and it is hard to be called to the mat when you
don’t. It is hard to always be looked to and looked at. I am a leader of a
company and I admit from my own experience that it is hard and that I have
failed at times. But hard is not and never will be an excuse – our ability to
live out our purpose and values every day is what we, in a position of
leadership, are looked to for. If you are a leader you are the example setter;
you are the role model; you are the chief influencer. It is an absolute
requirement to be the steward of your organization’s purpose and live out the
values you claim.
I take heed of the Conscious
Conscious Leadership tenet: “Conscious Leaders focus on ‘we,’
rather than ‘me.’ They inspire, foster transformation and bring out the best in
those around them.” There really is no better way to inspire your team than to
be an example of your company values. It is in the actions of a leader that we
see his true purpose and passion come to life.
Whole Foods states their purpose “is to nourish people and
the planet.” In late 2014 co-founder and CEO John Mackey, notably the man most
associated with organic foods, created the Responsibly Grown rating system so
that his customers would have greater transparency about their food. But he
also wanted to expose factors in production that were not being addressed in
the standard organic certification. From soil health to farmworker welfare, the
system takes into account issues that need to be addressed by growers. Through
this program they buy first from producers that address these issues. It was
not an easy decision and Mackey received push back from farmers. But he stood
by the decision and found a way to nourish people and planet, aligning his
actions with the company purpose.
But what of leaders who have failed their organizations?
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, stated in 1977, “What we’re trying to do is
remove the barrier of having to learn to use a computer.” His mission to remove
a barrier between people and technology proved successful, but his actions as a
leader created a barrier between himself and his people.
After he was ousted as CEO he claimed that it took being a
failure as a leader to open his eyes to what was needed at his company. In a
presentation in 1997, after he came back to Apple as CEO, he stated, “Even a
great brand needs investment in caring if it’s going to retain its relevance
and vitality. And the Apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this
area in the last few years. And we need to bring it back.”
At the time Jobs realized he needed to get back to his
company’s core value, that people with passion can change the world for the
better. He had become so focused on producing things that he forgot the heart
of what mattered, and that was people.
When you lead by example you create a vision of what is
possible for others. If you do it consistently you create a culture where
anything is possible. But if your actions aren’t congruent with your values you
risk the integrity and credibility of your whole organization. In all things
tie back to your core values. No matter what you are doing in any given moment
there is always an opportunity to tie it back to your values, and by doing so
you will find that walking your talk is not as hard as it sounds.

As President of Savage
, Bethany Andell is on a
mission to revolutionize corporate America by unleashing the inherent good in
all companies. In her book, Get
Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line: And Build Your Brand on Purpose
Andell, along with co-author Jackie Dryden, Chief Purpose Architect at Savage
Brands, help executives at business-to-business companies shift their focus
from solely improving the bottom line to instead prioritize the company’s
long-term health, culture and non-monetary impact on the world. Bethany is also
the host of The BusinessMaker’s radio program, “Brandonomics”. The show
features CEOs and business owners sharing direct insights on their
purpose-driven organizations and strategies.