Every group has a spoken or unspoken code.

Whether you (as the leader) have consciously created one or not, you have one. It may be flawed, but you have one.

For example: An authoritative leader doesn’t consciously create a code, but one exists. Most of the time their codes are toxic and change with the tide. One day to the next, team members never know if they are going the be a hero or scapegoat. The leader’s behavior is unpredictable. As a result, so is the team.

Symptoms of an unspoken and toxic code are:

  • A ‘my way or the highway’ attitude
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Not soliciting opinions or expertise from direct reports

Conflict is common in these environments (more about that in a future post).

Effective leaders take the time to consciously establish an honor code—usually by collaborating with their team. An honor code reflects a shared set of values that serve as a foundation on which you and your company stand. It is a pledge to demonstrate a standard set of behaviors for how you and your team will act in all situations.

A conscious positive honor code goes beyond the general professionalism we demonstrate to one another. Authentic Leaders ‘walk the walk.’ They consciously model the honor code they want their team to exhibit.

Here are a few examples:

Maturity: Many think maturity refers to age or experience, however, like wisdom, maturity may not level up with age. Maturity means taking personal responsibility and not blaming others, giving (or sharing) credit, being open-minded, and limiting your own wants for the benefit and needs of those you work with.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others—being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy is an important instrument in a leader’s toolbox. When a leader demonstrates empathy, team members feel understood. When people feel understood, they are inspired to perform at their best.

Honesty: Honesty is a fundamental honor code. Honesty goes beyond our interactions with others. It’s also about being honest with yourself. Honesty creates trust—trust in ourselves and in those we collaborate with. Trust in turn enables confidence. Confidence encourages us to take risks in order to fulfill our goals. Without honesty, there is no foundation to build a relationship.

Gratitude: When most people think of leadership, they think of confidence, strength, honesty, passion, and persuasiveness. One trait that doesn’t often make the list is gratitude. 

  • A leader who values her/his employees gains their trust.
  • A leader who appreciates her/his team gains their respect.
  • A leader who acknowledges her/his employees gains their effort.
  • A leader who thanks her/his employees gains their appreciation.

Somehow, gratitude doesn’t always make the standard leadership code. Maybe it’s time to change that.

Imagine if every member of your team consciously exhibited the traits of a positive honor code?

The question is what kind of code are you establishing?

As a leader, you influence the moral culture of your organizationdirectly and indirectly. Employees don’t turn to written statements in the company handbook for clues on how to behave—they look at you, their leader, and each other. You have a responsibility to consciously model the “code” you want others to exhibit.

Want to dive deeper on this? Shoot me an email.