Setting the tone

Help-UpOne of the things that seems overlooked in leadership teachings, seminars, and books is environment. Not “the” environment as far as nature, climate change, etc. I mean culture, tone, experience, feel, the intangibles of all interactions and what it’s like to be involved/around an organization or group.

The environment is the responsibility of the leader. The leader sets the tone for everything and everyone else.

If there is negativity in the organization or group, the leader is responsible. The leader is either the source of the negativity, is failing to recognize the source, and/or is failing to deal with it.

The leader must understand their role. As John Maxwell so famously says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That includes tone, attitude, and posture.

It can be hard to remain positive. In fact, it can be near impossible as the leader to do so. However, a negative tone will kill the organization quickly. There is little more destructive to a group of people than bad attitude.

I tell my daughters constantly that they choose their attitude. They choose whether or not they are going to have a good day or a bad day with the posture and attitude they take on.

For a leader, that choice of attitude affects everyone around them. When a negative attitude permeates the entire organization, it eats away at everything until the toxicity reaches critical levels.

I’m talking about false optimism or a head-in-the-sand mentality to challenges. The leader must realistically identify and face the challenges before their organization. Every organization has challenges and seasons of struggle. How the whole comes through those time sand whether or not the obstacles are overcome starts with the tone set by the leader. If the tone is one of whoa-is-us or we-are-victims then that will work through everyone involved and the challenge will loom larger than life tearing down morale, sapping energy, and thwarting success. However, if the leader has a can-do, we-got-this, charge-the-hill mentality then there is hope and life and energy to move forward for everyone.

Of course, good strategies and plans are also needed. These come after the tone. In fact, they can only truly exist in the right culture of positivity and trust.

Leader it is your job to set the tone. It is your responsibility to the way in posture. You choose the attitude of the organization. You do so daily.

If you find a source of negativity within, deal with it. Do so swiftly and decisively. The future of the organization depends on it. If it is you, do whatever it takes to change yourself and your posture. If it is someone else, confront them now. Letting it go will only make it worse. Trying to be soft and nice and help someone come along only hurts the organization. Give them a chance to change and a deadline (quick) to get there. If they do, great! If they don’t, it’s time for them to go. It may seem like that will make things worse, but the longer it is let go, the worse it is for the long term health and growth of the organization.

Setting the tone is a choice. It is not always easy. It means confronting hard truths. At times, it means removing somebody from the organization. Leader, it is imperative that you decisively and intentionally set the tone. If you don’t you will end up with a mess and wonder what happened.