Leadership: Vacation or Values?

January 8th, 2014

I once worked with a leader of a local business who told me the greatest stories of his early years in running his company. Most of them revolved around the tough decisions that leaders face. One time, when his business was just a few years old, he went on a family vacation.  These vacations were rare. His wife and kids did not ask for much. This was their time. Besides, he needed the break to recharge and rejuvenate on so many levels.

Then he got a dreaded call. A trusted employee shared intel that the employees were making their own rules, coming and going when they pleased, and were covering it up. Asking her to also participate, get her buy-in so to speak, by incriminating herself in action! She said no and called the boss. Thank goodness. This was a service business. Customers calls and requests were not being responded to. In fact, they even left her to run the business for extended periods of time!

rear-mirror-167581_640So what does a leader do when they get this kind of call? They sit in their car on the side of the road for several hours weighing their options. If I ignore it, I can go back to the beach with my family. I can simply deal with it later. Not perfect, but I deserve the downtime. However, this is about culture and values. Your culture is what people do when they are alone at 3 am. Culture is your company personality. Values are those key guide posts that drive behaviors when you’re not around. Well, you’re not around and the values are not being lived. What do you do?

You get in the car and drive right to the office. In the end you let a few people go and you warn a few others. All in all, you make it clear what your leadership is all about and that values matter. Especially if it means you will have to work harder and start over in your business. Even if you’re inconvenienced during your time off.

Curiously, I am not sure if this is truth or a great leadership fable. I am not sure it matters one bit in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what you would do as a leader. Would you take the path of least resistance? Stay on your vacation? Or drive home? I like to dream that I would get in the car and prove that culture and values matter!

One Response to “Leadership: Vacation or Values?”

  1. What Would Alan Burkhard Do? | The CBI Group Says:

    […] to operate freely within that loose system. That is why Outside-In® leaders lead with values. Values are there when we are not (which is often). Besides, bad leaders want to be superheroes anyway and are much too quick to dole […]

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