This is a guest post by Vishal Agarwal, author of Give to Get: A Senior Leader’s Guide to Navigating Corporate Life.
Much of the news run over the past few weeks has focused on what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not do once the Cambridge Analytics information came to light. Much of the anger has tied him to the billions of dollars of wiped out stock value. Yet, little has been said about his leadership style and, more important, what leaders must understand about themselves.
Anyone could talk a big game, but true leaders follow through on their promises and commitments with their actions. Mark has faced the privacy of data question and the consumer protection question, for as long as Facebook has existed. Over the recent years his assurances have been more forthright. Words aside, did Mark act sufficiently over this recent debacle? Did he do everything he could to live up to the promises he made to you and I, with his actions, no matter what?
If You Say It, Mean It
Too many senior executives say things they don’t really mean. What they often don’t realize is that their subordinates and colleagues notice. As a result, they lose credibility. The last thing an executive wants to lose is credibility and the trust of the team. The outcry of former employees (senior and junior) against Zuckerberg seem to suggest a credibility issue with teams and former colleagues.
A common come back is “I take full responsibility,” “the buck stops with me” or “we will sort this one out.” The reality is that measured actions, delayed actions, reluctant or indecisive actions do not build trust when the house is on fire. Remember: Actions speak louder than words.
A Contemporary Leader Serves
The best way to get your team to have your back is to win their hearts and minds. A good leader takes action—consistent action. The notion of servant leadership is grossly underrated and plain ignored by many. It means the leader exists to serve those under him. In contrast, traditional leadership is a top-down pyramid where the leader sits at the top, and subordinates do as the leader commands. Servant leaders turn that pyramid upside down by sharing power with their teams, placing the needs of their team before their own, and helping subordinates develop and grow so they can perform at the highest level possible.
Here are 6 things that servant leaders do:
- Commit genuine acts of empathy and self-sacrifice.
- Take bullets for the team so they don’t have to.
- Stand up and stand tall for the team with stakeholders.
- Prioritize team learning and development and find opportunities to accelerate self-development.
- Create an empowering atmosphere and encourage the team to take risks by letting them know they’ll have the team’s back if they fail.
- Above all, walk the talk; servant leaders make sure their own actions are consistent with what they expect from the team.
- The path to fulfillment as a corporate leader doesn’t run through the boardroom; it runs through others.
Vishal Agarwal is the bestselling author of Give to Get. As a Senior Leader, he has navigated corporate life for the past 24 years. He has served as a Top Global Executive for General Electric and as a senior partner at Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC). Agarwal has navigated all facets of corporate life—from building teams and delivering value to translating multinational visions into local wins.