That Shakepeare was a smart man, and I am fond of many quotations that he is responsible for, but when it comes to Leadership, I have always drawn a direct connection to the following quotation:
“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
Frankly, I don’t really get too caught up in anything after; “all the world’s a stage”, which is where I draw my comparison.
It is important to remember that, as leaders, we are ALWAYS on stage. Our audience may change throughout the day, week, or month, but we are on stage nonetheless, and it is probably never more important than when we are in front of our employees.
It’s also why I have always believed in “leadership by (positive) example” and I choose to insert the word positive quite intentionally as I also believe that the opportunity exists to provide negative examples, and I’m sorry to say that we have at one time or another, all worked for someone who provided us with a negative example of something that we will NEVER do.
I know, for me, I learned as much from the negative examples that I witnessed as I did from the positive examples, but regardless, it all drove home the same point; employees are ALWAYS watching to see what we will do, especially when the pressure is on, and especially when they need our support.
The other point I would like to drive home is that you never know how seemingly insignificant an item is, until it is too late, and I learned that the hard way, as we often do.
In the midst of an insanely busy day one day, I had an employee pop their head into my office and tell me that there was someone there to see me, and at the time, thinking nothing of it, I said; “please tell them you couldn’t find me, and I’ll follow up with them later.”
I could give you a thousand reasons why I asked the employee to provide the “excuse” that I did, but none of it matters, especially, when I tell you that this was a fairly new employee, one who I had not gotten to know as personally yet, as I would come to, which is why I did not know at the time that she was deeply religious, and to her, I had just asked her to lie for me.
Now, I’ll tell you that I did rectify the situation with the employee, and I did most sincerely and genuinely apologize for what I had asked her to do, and she was gracious and understanding, but it serves as an excellent example of how something that we may see as an innocent “white lie” can be viewed entirely different from others.
A stark reminder of why we must never forget that we are always on stage, and every interaction is another opportunity for us to make a choice, a choice of what kind of example we will provide, and ultimately, how we will be remembered.