Acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate.
You don’t need to look far to see that it’s clear that people value consistent behaviour in their leadership. Just by running an internet search for “Consistency in Leadership” brings up a ream of articles, blogs, quotes, and other evidence that it’s a valued trait. Entrepeneur.com lists ‘consistency’ as one of the top 50 rules in leadership; the Leadership Toolbox lists it as one of the 7 most important traits of Leadership; and Bob MacDonald describes how a lack of consistency is equivalent of a lack of leadership ability. There are 95 million results from that search term on Google, and no doubt this is growing further by the day.
Consistency is important.
Most of us understand that consistency is important in any business. So that customers or clients have confidence in the goods and services provided, businesses must offer consistent quality and service. Take a simple example – I’m sure almost everyone has a favourite restaurant. Mine is Ping Pong Dim Sum, on London’s Southbank (in case you were wondering, and feel like taking me for dinner). It’s my favourite, because not only is the food delicious – but it’s always delicious, every time I go. It’s my favourite, because not only is the service great – but it’s always great. It’s my favourite, because not only do the cocktails taste great – but they always taste great. I like going there because I can guarantee, regardless of when I go, who I go with, or what I order, it’s going to be consistently good. Think about your own favourite restaurant – it’s probably your favourite for similar reasons.
Without the ability to offer this consistent service, customers will simply go looking elsewhere to have their needs met. For example, I only ever go to one store to buy denim jeans, but if River Island ever stopped making jeans with ‘short’ sizing, I’m going to have to walk out of the store on my disproportionately stumpy legs, and shop elsewhere.
This principle holds true for employees in search of a leader, too.
LeadersOughtToKnow.com point out that, if a leader develops a reputation among their employees for being inconsistent in their words and/or actions, employees will lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively; and, as a result, employees may go in search of leadership elsewhere. This might seem extreme, but employees all want, and need, a leader to assist in the situations where they don’t know how to help themselves. Inconsistency in leadership can derail that, because employees can’t rely on their leader to apply the same rules either to every employee, or in similar situations.
Inconsistency in leadership can lead to a number of negative feelings among those being led. Whenever I think about times where I have experienced inconsistency in leadership, I found myself having feelings of resentment that they had applied different rules for different people, and I found myself thinking this was unfair. I felt like I didn’t know where I stood because they couldn’t provide me with a logical explanation of how they had applied their decision; and I found myself thinking that they probably weren’t a very good leader, because they aren’t able to make a consistent choice.
Entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker, late Jim Rohn has been quoted as saying: “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals”.
But, why is consistency so essential?
Inc.com outlines in detail some of the reasons consistency in leadership is a benefit:
Consistency allows for measurement. Until you have tried something for a period of time, and continued testing it in a consistent manner, you can’t make an informed decision whether it works or not. Do you remember carrying out science experiments at school, and having to change the variables of the experiment, but keeping everything else exactly the same to make the science project a “fair test”? Consistency in leadership has the same principle – you can’t measure your leadership effectiveness if what you are measuring isn’t performed consistently.
Consistency establishes your reputation. Imagine yourself in a situation at work where you’ve made a mistake, and you’re going to have to ‘fess up to the boss – as you walk down the corridor toward their office you pass a colleague who’s just left the office, and you ask them one simple question: “What mood are they in?”. If a leader cannot be consistent, their employees never know how they will react, and the leader will have a reputation for being unreliable, confusing, and – yes – inconsistent.
Consistency maintains your leadership message. “Do as I say, and not as I do” cannot be a reliable leadership principle. A team will pay as much, if not more, attention to what their leader does as to what they say. Consistency in leadership serves as a model for how employees behave – if a leader treats a meeting as unimportant, they shouldn’t be surprised when employees do the same.
Evan Carmichael points out three further reasons why leadership is a valued trait:
First, following we now live in unpredictable and uncertain times – The Telegraph released an article in February 2015 about how the world is on the brink of another credit crisis (and no one can forget the credit crunch in 2008); so now, when people go to work they want as much certainty as they can get. Consistency provides workers with the certainty that, if everything else is uncertain, they can still look to their leadership to deliver certain, predictable, consistent leadership behaviours.
Second, leaders must be able to demonstrate a level of self-discipline. If they can’t control their own behavior and attitude in different situations, then how can a leader expect those following them to control theirs?
Third, being inconsistent wastes your employees valuable time, because they spend so much time worrying about which way their leader is going to jump – this time could be much better spent doing their work.