Friday, December 31, 2021

Canteen Fundas - Leadership Series - Actions and Not Words

E-Canteen Fundas: Why it is your actions, not your words, that will always count more

People follow actions and not words. Your thoughts, words and actions must be in alignment. If they are not, people see through your lack of integrity and lose trust in you

Actions, always | (Pic: Edexlive)

‘Rahul, you were talking on your phone while riding your bike,’ said Rinku. ‘That was irresponsible and dangerous.’
‘It was an urgent call,’ said Rahul. ‘I don’t otherwise. I just spoke for a minute. You know I don’t break rules. I am a good citizen.’
‘You set a wrong example even if it’s for a minute,’ said Rinku. ‘And you’re our class secretary and captain of the basketball team. You have to be more aware as a leader.’
‘These small things don’t matter, Rinku,’ said Rahul. ‘Everyone knows I mean well and am not careless like others. I only do it when necessary. So there’s nothing to worry about. I can explain and they will understand.’
‘I have to disagree, Rahul,’ said Rakesh. ‘Good leadership is about having your thoughts and words and actions in alignment. You cannot say, ‘I follow rules’, on one hand, and break rules on the other when it is convenient to you. Everyone who is out there talking on their phone while riding their bike thinks exactly like you do — that they do it only when necessary and that they can handle it.’
‘What do you mean, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul loudly. ‘Are you saying I am dishonest? That I am breaking rules?’
‘Rahul, how much ever you shout out loud, the proof is in your actions,’ said Rakesh. ‘People who look up to you and believe in you will follow your actions, however small. If your classmates or teammates or your younger brother breaks rules you have yourself to blame’
‘But I tell them a hundred times and organise events on how they should follow rules,’ said Rahul. ‘And 90 per cent of the time I follow rules too. But they still follow what I do once? Why?’
‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘That’s the way it works. People follow actions, not words. You can say the most beautiful things, but when you break a rule, they think it’s okay if they break the rule too. If a boss, parent, teacher or leader can break it once, 'I can do it twice', they think. 'And despite that, if the boss calls himself a good citizen, I am one too.' So you have a hundred people following you, breaking the rules 200 times, thinking they are good citizens and a new behavior, a new culture begins — of rule-breaking — of which you are the leader. That is why you must be aware that your every act of commission and omission sends a message and changes behaviour and culture.’

‘What are these, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘Acts of commission are like what Rahul did,’ said Rakesh. ‘He committed an act which others will copy. Acts of omission are those where Rahul ignores something he should call out as a leader. Like if his friend breaks a rule and Rahul ignores it or if Rahul has information about something wrong, but does nothing about it — it’s an act of omission. People follow that too. They stop doing what they should because the leader is not doing the same. For example, if people stop helping others or look away when someone’s breaking the law, it means they are following the leader’s example.’
‘Arre, people follow everything blindly or what?’ asked Rahul. ‘Don’t they think for themselves?’
‘They do,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘Initially, people trust you and your intent and elect you as their leader. But as they see the inconsistency between your words and actions, they stop believing and trusting you. In the short run, they might follow your actions because they believed in you, but over time, they begin to do what is good for them and either hold you accountable or choose another leader.’
‘Bhaiyya, how can we catch ourselves when we are not doing what we are preaching?’ asked Rinku. ‘It’s difficult to know.’
‘The best feedback is the behaviour of people around you,’ said Rakesh. ‘If your classmates or teammates are lying, cheating, breaking rules, not putting in enough effort, not being transparent or honest or are inconsistent — look where you are doing that. If your teammate is breaking a team rule, look at where you broke the rules. What you do in a small way as a leader or role model, they do ten times more. What begins as a small spark catches on and becomes a wildfire that will be difficult to put out once it sets in. One dishonest action can lead to a dishonest culture that will be hard to change.’
‘Wow,’ said Rahul. ‘That's a big insight, bhaiyya. I will watch out for my actions a lot more carefully from now on.’

Pro Tip: People follow actions and not words. Your thoughts, words and actions must be in alignment. If they are not, people see through your lack of integrity and lose trust in you.

No comments: