By Marshall Goldsmith
One of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.
I am deeply honored that Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. She has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends and family issues. And, like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president because she had already committed to a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn’t matter that a “better deal” came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is upbeat and positive, she is inspirational and she gets the job done.
Three of Frances “battle cries” are
- Her blood type, which she proudly tells us is “Be Positive”!
- Her vision, which she enthusiastically shares with all of us “Bright Future”!
- Her mission, which she exemplifies to us every day “To Serve Is to Live”!
Frances believes in the core of her soul in what she is doing and anyone around her feels it and knows it. Everyone buys her act — because her act is truly Frances.
Believe in Your Act
I used to have a conflict about the “stage” of business. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act.
I wondered, when is acting being professional? When is acting being phony? I want to help leaders perform well under all circumstances; I don’t believe they should ever be phonies. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?
What makes you “buy” your boss’s, colleagues’, subordinates’ or even a salesperson’s “act?” The answer is we buy someone’s act when they truly love their profession. We are with them when their “act” is part of the fabric of who, and what they are — and we can feel it in our interactions with them.
If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn’t you out there.
Every day we all take the stage. And, when you take the stage and the show must go on — are people buying your act? And, most of all are you buying your own act?
If the answer is “no”, change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won’t count for much. Why? It won’t really be you.
If the answer is “yes”, be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.