Tim Kight states rather bluntly that if an organization isn't performing as well as its leader would like, the first place the leader should look to improve the organization's performance is in the mirror.
A lot of people in positions of management "are too quick to blame others," says Kight, who is founder and CEO of leadership training firm Focus 3 of Columbus, Ohio. "They're too quick to find fault, as opposed to looking at themselves and the way they lead."
Kight extolled the virtues of what he calls "relentless leadership" in the December episode of the 21st Century Business Forum.
The 21st Century Business Forum is a monthly webcast featuring authors, entrepreneurs and key leaders in business and sports. The show, hosted by Clay Young and sponsored by CHI St. Vincent, aims to inform and inspire Arkansas business leaders — executives, managers and entrepreneurs — with engaging interviews that yield practical advice for leading organizations and achieving success.
Kight maintains that exceptional leaders "are relentless about the actions, discipline and mindset that a real leader engages in." Such leaders, he said, "are relentless in engaging with people, they're relentless about executing with and through people, (and) they are deeply and tenaciously committed to people and performance."
In Kight's view, there are two fundamental priorities of great leaders.
"No. 1 is build trust, and No. 2 is achieve results," he said.
Kight is quick to note that priority No. 1, trust, "isn’t given; trust is earned."
"People don't trust somebody because they have a title or a position," he said. "In fact, leadership isn't authority based on a title you have. It is influence based on the trust you've earned."
Leaders earn trust in three ways, Kight said — through their character, their competence and their connection with people.
"And every single day, you make deposits into — or withdrawals from — a trust account with your people," Kight tells leaders.
Accomplishing priority No. 2, results, involves leaders providing their people with three things — clarity, accountability and support.
Kight said clarity comes in part from leaders clearly outlining their expectations and defining their organization's cultural standards and strategic direction. Accountability, he said, involves holding individuals accountable "in a positive, productive fashion to the standards." And support is shown through providing people with the tools, training and coaching they need to do their jobs.
It is Kight's belief that people will perform "to the level of leadership that you provide." As a result, leaders who aren't satisfied with how well their organizations work need to ask a series of questions to evaluate their own performance first. Among those questions: "Is trust sufficient? Have I listened to people? Do I understand what's going on with the people on the front line of our company? Have I clarified expectations? Am I holding people accountable in an effective manner? Am I coaching and providing the kind of support and tools and training that people need?"
Kight also said leaders set the tone for the energy their people bring to the workplace.
"The people on your team will never be more engaged than you are," Kight said. "If you are not enthusiastic and engaged about the business and the clients and customers you serve, your lack of energy will bring people down."
By contrast, he said, "If you're engaged and energized and excited and passionate about what you do, who you do it with and why you do it, that's going to be felt by the people that you lead."
Watch previous episodes of the 21st Century Business Forum here.