The importance of walking the walk

I wrote recently about the importance of both aligning yourself with your followers, and of championing their interests.  It's hard to do that if your leadership consists of talking the talk, but not actually walking the walk.

New research underlines the importance of living the values you preach, and the dangers of hypocrisy to your leadership.

In addition to not espousing the values held dear by your followers, you are also exhibiting unpredictable behaviour.  By saying one thing and doing another it makes it hard for your followers to predict how future encounters with you will pan out.

The research wanted to test for three distinct leader behaviours:

  1. Supervisory undermining, ie being talked about behind your back
  2. Leadership hypocrisy, ie not practising what they preached
  3. Interpersonal justice expectation, ie how often you're asked to behave in a certain way

In addition to these, respondents were asked how happy they were at work, whether they planned on leaving, how much they trusted their leader and so on.The results were clear.  If the leader showed high levels of hypocrisy, staff turnover was significantly higher.  What is interesting is that unfair behaviour in itself was not found to contribute significantly to staff turnover.  Poor behaviour only became a factor when the leader was not living up to the standards they expected of others.  In other words, hypocrisy was a key factor in peoples desire to leave their job.As the authors conclude, "the promise of interpersonal justice expectation adds insult to injury as subordinates realise that their leader's behaviour deviates from the dignified and respectful behaviour they promote." Most humans want to experience fair behaviour, be it at work or in their social life.  This research underlines the importance of walking the walk as well as talking the talk.Adi Gaskell is a management writer and blogger.