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The Force that can Shape Strategy: Being Consistent
By Dr. Arron Grow, Associate Program Director – Organizational Leadership Concentration
On my way into Seattle this morning I took the opportunity to glance over at our local mountain of fame, Mount Rainer. As the light from the sun rising in the East was hitting the mountain in a certain way; a way I hadn’t seen before. This caused a certain thought to hit me; one I want to share with you now – regardless of the season, the type weather, or the time of day, the mountain stands its ground. I realize this isn’t a new thought with me. Even the ancient Chinese proverb comes to mind, No matter how much the wind may blow, it will not move the mountain. Either way you consider it, the connection to leadership remains the same. Like the mountain, those who care or dare to assume positions of responsibility in any organization, need to be ready to remain consistent.
Parents who vary in their parenting style – lenient one day and strict the next, raise children who never know where they stand. Team leaders who have similar practices will find team members who have the same problem. At the organizational level, the same principle applies. Leaders who desire to be a beacon for their organizations need to be consistent; consistent in their words, their actions, and their vision. In their book, The Leadership Challenge, Kousez and Posner list five pillars of leadership. Two of these have a direct connection to what I’m sharing here, Model the Way, and Inspire a Shared Vision. For leaders of organizations, neither of these are possible without consistency.
As a youth, I was taught this lesson first hand by a standing US House of Representatives member from the state of Oregon, Les Aucoin. Our high school was hosting him to speak. As a student government representative, I was asked to assist him while on campus. In that season, there was a bill concerning capital punishment being put to the people of the Oregon. The people had voted in favor of capital punishment. Yet at the national level, Mr. AuCoin was consistently voting in opposition to this. At one point, during out day together, I asked him about this. I asked, As a representative of the state, shouldn’t you be representing what the people want?
I’ll never forget his polite, yet firm reply. He said, in effect, It’s true I was elected to represent the people of this state, and when I put myself out there to do this, I was clear about my position on this and many other issues. I am not going to change my position now that I’m in office. When the time comes that the people feel someone else better represents them, then that person will win the nomination, and I’ll go back to doing what I was doing before. Countless leaders have learned that attempting to serve every perspective serves no one well. I’m not going to make that mistake.
If you are a leader, or you aspire to be one, I’m going to recommend this same approach. As you maintain a certain constancy, others may not like or agree with where you stand, but they’ll know where you stand, which, in the long run, is a vital foundation for leadership.