Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leadership & Reputation

Volume: December 2014

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Karl liked to joke around. He was also a leader. He worked for a distribution company for 10 years and was made a leader at the start of the new year. He had a team of 15 people and prior to his leadership role he was a part of the core team. Karl realized that moving from a team member to a team leader is a difficult leadership challenge. What Karl did not realize was that moving a reputation from one of being a comedian to one of being a respected leader is even more challenging. Karl learned this first-hand with disappointing results.


Once Karl moved into his leadership role, his antics did not stop. In fact, he elevated the amount of humorous emails he sent to his team. His efforts to continue to be one of the crowd backfired. Rather than build leadership rapport with his team, he eroded his email credibility within the organization. When he did attempt to send an important message or to discipline poor performance, no one took him seriously.


Karl came to realize that a leader’s effectiveness is directly related to establishing and maintaining a positive reputation in the organization. Karl also came to understand that building leadership cache and minimizing damage to one’s reputation is of paramount importance.


In a last ditch attempt to win the respect and followership of his team, Karl stopped joking around entirely. His actions, however, were too late. His team was out of control and the organization replaced Karl. He was offered a non-leadership position, but Karl was determined to become a successful leader. He located an opportunity at a different company that needed a leader for a seven-person department. Karl decided to leave his long-time employer and moved to a different city as a result.


Karl is optimistic about his the future because of several leadership lessons he learned.  

  1. Be Smart About Humor. Everyone likes to laugh, but not everyone will follow a funny leader. Seek to have the vast majority of your reputation be based on your skills, actions, and accomplishments, not on your likeability.


  1. Stay in Integrity. Set an example for your direct reports by doing what you say you are going to do. If you keep your promises on important initiatives, your team members will do the same. This also contributes to a healthy culture in your department. Stay in integrity on little things as well: Start meetings on time, hold people accountable, finish what you start, and end meetings on time. 


  1. Be Predictable. There is an old movie called The Three Faces of Eve. It is a fascinating account of someone with multiple personality disorder. In the story, Eve creates chaos and confusion because of her unpredictability. Do not let unpredictability be one of your key leadership traits. It will create a culture of chaos. Instead, seek to lead in a consistent, predictable manner. Consistency is king. In fact, methodical leadership will set a pattern for team members to emulate. The team will find comfort in leadership consistency, which will increase productivity and reduce workplace conflicts.  


  1. Help Others Achieve More. Helping others sounds so commonsensical and easy. Yet, effectively coaching and developing team members can be challenging and complicated. One of the most challenging aspects of coaching team members is making time to meet with everyone. Effective coaching calls for leaders to have excellent time management skills. Also, leaders have to be strategic as they map out individual development plans.


  1. Communicate Clearly. A workplace reputation can be built or destroyed by the skillful use of the written and spoken word. Do not damage your professional email cache by sending meaningless jokes that make people laugh in the moment. In addition, the quick, targeted, and sincere apology is a hallmark of a skillful leader.


  1. Quickly Manage Conflicts. Do not try to make light of or avoid problems in the workplace. Good leaders realize that interpersonal challenges are a normal part of human interaction, and they establish a process for delivering and engaging in difficult conversations. In addition, seek to embrace proven formulas for problem-solving. These tools and techniques will not automatically eliminate challenges, but they help drive prompt action that will minimize carnage and lost productivity.  


  1. Skillfully Speak in Public. Effective leaders do not have to be the best orators in the world. However, they must be able to move groups of people to action with the presentations they deliver. Three simple rules can help any leader to be a better speaker: Practice (a lot), use vocal variety, and do not subject the audience to PowerPoint hell. The acid test is that people actually look forward to hearing you speak publicly.    


There are many ways leaders can build a positive reputation and create followership in the process. Karl learned many lessons during his short leadership journey. I have confidence that he will find success in his new position. 


Bottom Line: Leaders with solid reputations get things done. A positive reputation means that the leader makes good on their promises and holds others accountable to do the same. A solid reputation is built by consistently having clear communication, resolving conflicts, helping others to grow, and delivering effective presentations. What is your reputation in the workplace? Are you focused on growing a positive reputation and minimizing your reputational risk? Chances are good that you are rock solid! Now go accomplish more than others thought was possible, and avoid career pitfalls in the process. Ah, your legend grows……


Until next time, be well. 


Doug Van Dyke is a Tampa Bay based executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, and consulting services, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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