I interviewed a young woman today who taught me a valuable lesson.
She was looking for an internship and was meeting with a number of agencies in Toronto. When I asked her why she wanted to work for FleishmanHillard she said it was because we demonstrated leadership rather than just talking about it.
I was curious what she meant by that.
She said where most agencies spoke about the time and care they take with employees, FleishmanHillard were the only ones who actually took the time and care with her as an intern. She said it spoke volumes about our values. She understood, that her employment as intern would be as much (or even more of) an opportunity for her to learn from our team as it would be for her to contribute to our team. Nevertheless, a number of members from our leadership team took the time to meet her and help her along the way. She said it proved to her that this was how we’d treat her as an employee. Our actions spoke louder than our words.
Coincidentally, I was having this very conversation with a former client this morning. We were talking about memorable bosses that we’d had over the years. Both of us remembered the leaders who took time out of their day for people when there wasn’t anything really in it for them. If you emailed them to say hello, they’d email you back. If you had a win that week, they’d offer congratulations. They’d even take the time just to ask how things were going. They made everyone feel important and valued.
We often talk to our clients about the say/do gap and the need for as little distance between the two as possible. I actually think the gap exists when there is a misalignment in values. You can’t tell someone how they should behave as a leader. It needs to come from a genuine place. A true leader is the same woman/man in every situation. There is no gap, because they live what they value.
It was also a good reminder that as leaders we are always being watched. Even when we least suspect it. People are paying attention. And they believe in leadership only when they see leadership.