I’m going to flood you with C-words in this Leading Thoughts, because I want to talk to you about the difference between Command and the Counsel of Core Values. I’m going to urge you to consider that Command is a lesser form of leadership. The Counsel of Core Values is the way you want to lead and it builds stronger organizations.
Command is easy. I’m in charge. My employees are not. I tell them what to do. They do it. Why can I do that? Because I own the company, perhaps, or because somebody put me in charge. So, I’m the boss. What I say goes. That’s command.
The problem with command is that it ends with the individual in charge. When an employee or team member thinks about why a decision was made, they think simply, “Because that’s what the boss wants.” And there it ends.
You can do this if you’re the boss, but it isn’t good leadership and it doesn’t produce great organizations.
No, great leadership and great organizations are built on the Counsel of Core Values. Picture it. A leader has worked hard to make sure the core values of the organization are well-known. There is very clear language about why we are here, the higher meaning for what we do, what we want every customer to experience, and the principles that guide our conduct. There is purpose. There is vision.
Then, when the leader makes a decision, he or she is applying the core values to a situation. Everyone knows these values and recognizes that the leader is wisely acting based on them. Everyone learns. Everyone feels part of a body of noble values. Everyone is better able to make such decisions for themselves the next time. And, usually, everyone has greater respect for the leader and the principles of the firm afterward.
I always reach for the example of Winston Churchill in such matters. He told the British people who they were. He told them who the Nazis were. He constantly extolled the values that made England great. He spoke of what would need to come from every British heart for victory to be assured. He described that victory in sweet detail. Then, when he or his staff made a decision, every private and street sweeper could understand how that decision was the wise application of the nation’s values.
The private and the street sweeper got better. They saw the whole, felt part of it, and stepped more fiercely into it the next day. And victory came.
I’m watching an organization now with a strong command leader. He’s in charge, no doubt. Everyone knows it. But when his team speaks to me of his decisions, they speak only of his will. Not higher values. Not the “vision of the house.” Not what we are all committed to. No, they speak of the daily personal preferences of the top guy. They are actually a little afraid of him. They devote much energy to avoid his angry glare. Frankly, they’ll be glad when he is gone. In the meantime, everyone hunkers down and hopes the boss is in a good mood today.
Look at your leadership. Is it driven by principle? Is it driven by core values known by all those you lead? Are your decisions seen as wise extensions of the noble truths everyone already shares? If so, that is great leadership. Anything else is just being the boss – commanding from position rather than leading by principle.