I was working with a company recently and as a part of the process the CEO asked me to speak with her direct reports, so that I could get a good handle on whether the culture she was trying to instill was having a positive impact. The business was growing, and she knew that the example she set for the company would play a large role in how the rest of the employees would respond to her challenges to grow the business.
The meetings were going well and it was obvious that she was having a very positive impact on the culture of the company and her managers and the employees desire to follow. The answers to my questions were enlightening, but it was a story told in my meeting with her Director of Finance that crystalized her ability to lead her team for me.
The Director of Finance attended each monthly Board meeting to report on the financial health of the company. This offered him the opportunity to see the CEO communicate to the Board. He told me stories of how whenever there was a situation that may not have gone as planned, objectives weren’t met on time or were missed, or there was a performance management issue, the CEO always took responsibility and would never point the finger at any manager, employee or group of people. Her standard answer was; I am in charge and therefore I must accept responsibility.
The kicker for him was that every time there was a success in the company, the CEO was always first to share the success with the Board and also give the credit for the success to the manager, employee or group that achieved the success.
In conversation with Board members following meetings they always told him how much respect they had for her because, of her ability to be a true leader. When he told his fellow managers how she managed these situations in the Board meetings, they were stunned and so appreciative. She was someone that didn’t reflect the norm in their experience.
Great CEO’s lead by example and if the example is a great one, they will generally get a great response from their managers and employees. It really is about respect. This CEO earned the respect of her team by not worrying about who got the credit, and ensuring that she was accountable for the business.
This doesn’t mean she didn’t hold people accountable when things didn’t go as planned, she did, but she did it one on one, and kept it between her and the individual. She is a leader we all could follow.