Decency is honest, polite behaviour that follows accepted moral standards and shows respect for others (Oxford Learners Dictionary). It then follows that being a decent leader has some requirements. And it’s difficult to know what these are because of the current dearth of decency in our world and most of our global leaders. However, let’s try.
Are you a decent leader? What more could you do? Decency insights
A leader who is working towards decency will be very clear about their value base and how they enact it, even in difficult times. They will be active in making principled decisions even if there is a cost to them or the organisation. They will think of others first and not themselves. With these qualities in mind, they will work with compassion, kindness, and appreciation of all.
They will encourage other leaders and managers to adopt these approaches and agree on the parameters for decency. They provide opportunities to discuss successes in being civil and honest and when there has had to be compromise.
A decent leader will also enable staff to be value-based with kindness and compassion. Everyone’s behaviour will be reinforced. What they encourage is that the work is done with integrity and kindness for each other; beyond just achieving the goal.
Decent leaders will be inclusive of all, even those with the smallest differences. And create the culture in which everyone feels listened to and included.
Being willing to do all this defines someone as a decent leader who will, regardless of external factors, remain focussed and centred.
The decent leader will look at their administrative structures, policies and procedures and make sure that these facilitate civility. And ensure that the culture is one that enables positivity and openness to discuss mistakes and negativity without blame or fault finding.
What more could you do?
Living and enacting decency is a massive task. Consider all the facets described above. As onerous as they are, it is still worth trying. Recognising that we are human, fallible, and only have a finite set of energy reserves.
Most people are decent, but in the day-to-day struggle of leadership, they may compromise a little too much. And it is very difficult to change to become more decent and encourage others to do the same, let alone trying to change the culture.
It is worth stopping and reminding yourself of your value base and think about how much decency matters to you regardless of what is going on around you. Where have you compromised and how did you reconcile this? Try to live with this so you can build your tendency to decency.
Consider how you can build your strength, courage and motivation to be a more decent leader. Tapping into these will be a great help. Remember to replenish them.
A good way to encourage other leaders, managers and staff to consider decency is to have open conversations about how the organisation works ethically and collaboratively. Identify the positives in the work and each other. Talk about where there has been decent behaviour and what more can be done.
Factor these discussions into the fabric of the way of working. Why not ask, in project meetings, ‘how sure are we that we are being fair and compassionate to all stakeholders?’ Reflect on team meetings and consider how inclusive you are to everyone present. What do you do if someone dominates or harasses another? What steps can you take so that all learn?
It is best to do this openly and collectively so that staff don’t feel that this is yet another idea that is being imposed. Ask for their input.
Being decent as a leader and as an organisation should be a cornerstone for all. This takes determination and calmness. We can start where we are and build from that such that we shift to being part of a world where decency is the norm, not the exception.
Anna Eliatamby is Director of Healthy Leadership, CIC and author of the new Decency Journey series of pocketbooks.
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