[August 18, 2017] It has been more than a year since I added a “characteristic” for senior leaders. How I overlooked this one – an important one at that – is still a mystery. Being consistent as a leader is crucial for a number of reasons that I will address below.
In the Deep South back in the 1950s, baseball was at the top of the sports pinnacle; Whitey Ford, Early Wynn, Warren Spahn from that era and are just a few famous baseball pitchers … all Hall of Famers. In those years, nearly every one of us Little League players could also throw a great pitch occasionally but what we lacked was being able to get it over the plate consistently. Many, like me, eventually played in the outfield.
“The one thing that kids need is consistency.” – Julianne Moore, American actress
Quoting actors to make a point on leadership is like trying to tell time with a defective clock. But occasionally they do get it right; like Julianne Moore who makes the wise observation that children need consistency in their lives. They thrive on consistency and so do adults. Inconsistency can make us neurotic, introverted, and unreliable; at least that is what psychologists tell us.
Leaders should be consistent for many reasons. But first it is necessary to point out that being consistent does not mean a leader lacks flexibility, boldness, courage, or any other important leader trait. I once had a combat commander who was both consistent and bold; he was a great success and later promoted to Flag officer rank.
Here are five important reasons leaders should be consistent:
- Trust and confidence of a leader is derived from consistency in word and deed. It means doing the right thing every time, making good decisions and taking care of your employees … every time. This is how they earn the respect of others.
- Self-discipline originates from both the desire toward excellence and carrying out that desire in one’s behavior. Self-discipline is what allows us to create a mission, focus our energy there, and accomplish anything worth doing.
- Efficiency and Effectiveness are enhanced. There is a direct relationship between high standards, success, and discipline. When a productive leader does the right thing – and are consistent – they are also efficient and effective.
- It promotes honesty; a crucial leadership trait that means being straightforward with people, telling the truth, not making promises you can’t keep, and obeying the Gold Rule.
- It makes the leader approachable and more likely to listen to others. Good listening skills are, of course, the foundation of a genuine leader.
When I asked my Little League baseball coach why I wasn’t the team’s pitcher, he said it was because I could always catch long fly balls. I had a good eye he said. I was also consistent as a pitcher; I almost always threw the ball in the dirt instead of to the catcher. My teammates liked me and trusted my skills, just not as a pitcher.
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