Leadership Accountability for Double Standards vs. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”: Language of Caring
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Leadership Accountability for Double Standards vs. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”

The issue of leadership accountability often goes unmentioned even as everyone is talking about how we need to strengthen accountability for living the organization’s values, for adhering to Codes of Conduct, for complying with policies, and for following behavioral standards consistently.

It wouldn’t be so hard if leaders would model the behavior they want. Then, they would no longer be accused of promoting “Do as I say, not as I do”. They wouldn’t have to spell out nearly so many rules, codes and expectations if they could just say, “Do as I do.”

You don’t need to hear me harangue about the negative impact of double standards as we work hard to improve performance and the patient experience in our organizations. You know that employees point to double standards among higher-ups as a KEY reason to resist behavior changes.

In summary, “When they do, I will. And until then, get off my back!”

Double standards and lack of leadership accountability breed resentment and low morale. And they make it utterly impossible to excel. Employees continue to make excuses. The champions for change among us become drained and encourage people to make the changes anyway “because it’s the right thing to do.”

Imagine if leadership teams could say with integrity, “Do as I do.”

Imagine if leadership teams would invite people to give them personal feedback if they see or suspect a double standard.

Imagine if leaders would thank people for the feedback and commit to changing their behavior so that one and only one standard applies to everyone.

Now you might be thinking, “But it’s in the nature of capitalism. Some people at the top get more power, more rights, more money and are not subject to the same rules.” I know that.  Just know that when leaders follow their own code of behavior and expect employees to follow a much more stringent one, they are not going to get the behavior they want. And replacing “problem” employees with new employees isn’t going to solve the problem, because double standards will soon demoralize great new employees too.

Suggestion to Help You Foster Leadership Accountability and Eliminate Double Standards

Make a list of double standards you see among your leaders. If there are behavioral items on that list that make it hard for you to tirelessly champion high standards of employee behavior, get gutsy. Talk with someone you respect on the leadership team.

Tell this person that employees perceive double standards among leaders and that these double standards are impeding the effort to produce employee performance at a consistently high level. Ask this person if they will suggest to their leadership colleagues doing a Double Standards Self-Assessment.  Click here for an example.

Then openly discuss the results and their implications with each other. Dare the leadership team to commit to PERSONALLY eliminating double standards, even if it’s one double standard at a time over a period of months.

And, to get the biggest bang from this, suggest that they communicate to employees that they REALIZED they were living a double standard, that they apologize because it isn’t fair, and that they have personally committed to modeling the behavior they want from everyone…for the sake of widespread, consistent excellence.

What other leadership accountability approaches have YOU tried?  Share with me at [email protected]

Categories: Accountability, Leadership


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