Many scholars say ethical leadership is not a science, but rather an art. This school of thought means there is no exact way for individuals to lead, and that leadership can be complicated. Although I agree with this line of thinking, I am convinced that all leaders can do a few simple things to grow and become better leaders. The first is outstanding, true performance.
True performance opens doors for leaders to grow. As I continue to interview and read about ethical leaders, I see more and more that they won opportunities to advance in their endeavors by outperforming others in their previous roles. It’s true. Performing well today can grant you opportunities to do more tomorrow.
A fascinating example of this simple truth is seen in the career of C. C. Spaulding. In summary, Mr. Spaulding funded his education by working as a shoeshine boy, dishwasher, waiter and bellhop. Starting at the bottom with these jobs, he performed well in all of them. This performance led him to become the general manager of the local grocery store in his hometown.
His performance in this role created the opportunity for him to take over as the leader to a struggling insurance company, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 10 years, he led the company to become the largest minority-owned business in the world. Until his death in 1952, Mr. Spaulding was known internationally as America’s leading black businessman. From the worst job in town, shining shoes, to international recognition, Mr. Spaulding’s true, authentic performance continued opening doors for him.
I encourage any and all current and future leaders to focus on your performance. Be a great performer. Be an authentic performer. Be a true performer. In turn, great performance will lead you to great opportunities.
If you want to be an ethical leader, you must first be an ethical performer.
As always, Lead with Integrity.
– Alfonzo Alexander
President, NASBA Center for the Public Trust