When I attended Boston University, John Silber was the president at the time and his command of the university was controversial. While he had been instrumental in growing the university to new heights, he was also known for controlling much more than the eduction and finances. The best-known instance at the time actually drew Phil Donahue to televise his show from the Student Union – debating Silber’s alarmingly invasive attempts to control students by enforcing curfews in the school dorms. There were other polarizing decisions made by his administration, but one thing everyone agreed on was that he proven successes in strengthening the institution and he was consistent. During a huge learning period for me, it became clear what it meant to be consistent.
Since then, It’s become abundantly clear that consistency leads to success only if balanced in the practice of experience, openness and clarity. Silber was able to achieve growth by being consistent – even if it meant upsetting people – because his decisions were usually based on previous success. Many others claim consistency is their strength even when their basis for decisions is baseless or resting squarely on ideology and not actual practice, which is not the direction to go in either. Compound those with a lack in clarity of mission and an unwillingness to be open to other ideas, and you’ve got problems as an institution.
Too often, certainly in politics, leadership leads by speaking loudly and with assertiveness without real long-term strategy or consistency of process. We’ve all seen that those leaders may either drive the institution into the ground, or at best maintain status quo. From an institutional standpoint, there are very few successes, if any, that we can point to based on this type of leadership. Whereas consistency found through strategy, process or the communication of either can lead to more productivity and success.
Much like a child needs to have consistency in order to feel more comfortable in where they fit in, or a defender in Football (American or Otherwise) needs to be part of a consistent game plan to know where they need to be, employees need to have the same consistent knowledge to be effective at their jobs. With consistency, comes a second-nature ability to do without wasting time “thinking.”
Of course, everyone needs tobe thinking at all times, but why waste time trying to figure out how you’re supposed to think on any given day or time. At a time when company output is more diverse and employees are expected to handle more jobs and responsibilities, consistencies in process (production, decision-making, solutions, etc.) are even more integral to a company’s strength.
While there could be drawbacks in holding consistency above all – an example being consistently bad decisions – it sets the groundwork that enables smart shifting of strategy. Why lack of consistency is a killer for businesses is not just in how employees do their work, but in how the company has no ability to track what is fundamentally working. In this era where speed is everything, organizations barely have the time to fully track effectiveness effectively – imagine how the challenge is compounded when everyone is moving sporadically from direction to direction based on which way the wind is blowing, the latest earnings report or the hottest new gadget.
Leadership requires not just sticking your neck up, but being firmly rooted in the ground and actually taking a look around. We’ve discussed different types of leadership in the past, but the succesful ones and their companies are the ones who do those things. We will be better off if more leaders did the same as we attempt to work our way out of this insanity and into a stronger future…