In regards to exemplary leadership tactics, one must look beyond oneself and into the actions of his or her followers to examine the success of one’s leadership. What are our employees doing or saying when we are not around? What are we doing to encourage good behavior or redirect poor attitudes?

The true test of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is watching.

– John Wooden

Setting boundaries for what is permissible or expected in our organization or business is a key ingredient for a healthy work environment. Without these lines of tolerance, room is created for grayed or blurred areas in which trouble may brew. Typically, we abide by “common sense” laws of morality: try not to show up late to a meeting, do not lie, etc. However, the true test of a leader is what he or she is communicating through unspoken behaviors, not these clearly defined laws.

What We Tell People To Do

This aspect of leadership is straight forward. What are we asking people to do? What are we establishing as priorities in our business? Maybe you are communicating the importance of being honest with clients or are encouraging your employees to maintain a positive work environment. Either way, you have probably already established expectations for what you want people to do.

These expectations are very often communicated through emails or conference meetings, and maybe even encouraged through a reward system. The point is that the people you lead are aware of what is expected and what is right.

What We Tell People NOT To Do

This next point is also simple to grasp because it is the most obvious when neglected. As leaders, we must set boundaries of what is undesirable behavior amongst the group. When these lines are not clearly drawn, complications break out and wreak havoc on our organization or company. We expect people NOT to steal, NOT to disrespect authority, NOT to neglect responsibilities, etc. We hope that most of these laws are already ingrained in people, but it is still our job as leaders to iron out any confusion.

When we pair these two expectations, we hope to eradicate disorder or unwanted behavior. So why does it still happen? What else could we do to improve? At this point, we need to pause and stop looking at the expectations we are setting for others and begin looking at ourselves. The third and final component to successful leadership is the most important and often the most overlooked.

What Our Actions Communicate

This last aspect is all about us. What are OUR actions communicating to others about our expectations? Any person could set limits on what is right and what is wrong, but a distinguishing element of a leader is the ability to adapt these expectations and be a model to others. While being difficult or uncomfortable, this point cannot be excluded. This tactic is best communicated through the following questions:

What Are Your Principles?

While you may have already set guidelines for your employees on what is right or wrong, you must go deeper. What are your morals? Why have you set these certain principles for yourself and your company? Why are they important to you? You must not only clearly define what drives your principles, but you must also abide by them. How can you expect your employees to follow you if your actions do not line up with your expectations?

What Are Your Limits?

Likewise, it is important to establish your limitations. Where is your line of tolerance? Do you allow a couple injustices towards clients and coworkers or none at all? Where exactly is the line in the sand? What are you willing to tolerate in your workplace? In what ways are you making adjustments to yourself to clearly define your limits, not only through your words, but your actions?

Are You Being Consistent?

Lastly, if you are not consistent in this endeavor, none of this matters. As a leader, you must abide by these boundaries every single moment or not at all. Your followers are observing your behavior and actions and using these perceptions to guide themselves. They do not care about what the email tells them to do. They are looking to you to model these behaviors. If you see an undesirable action taking place in your workplace, you must speak up against it every time. What good are you to your company if you are silent when people need a leader to establish right from wrong?

Being consistent takes courage. Perhaps one of your close friends is doing wrong by others. You cannot tolerate it. You cannot make exceptions. A lack of inconsistency promotes disrespect. No one will take your leadership seriously if you relax on your principles.

Here is a parting question: What are you allowing to happen in your company or organization through a lack of leadership?

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