Leaders Know the Importance of Consistency

Gerwig 2015-08-24

Are you a statistical genius? Do you love crunching numbers, calculating standard deviations, performing variance analyses, and conducting hypothesis testing? Some you may hate math in general and statistics in particular, but many of you are secretly math geeks. And thank goodness!

Did you know that everything from cars to iPads to TVs to planes to razors to women’s high-end fashion footwear benefits from the geniuses who apply statistical tools to production operations? The same can be said for those that forecast the weather or predict economic trends. In truth, statistical tools play a much larger role in our society than the average person recognizes.

And today, I’d like to take one of those statistical concepts, variation, and apply it to the field of social science. I’m going to look at the importance of behavioral variation or behavioral consistency. By the end of this brief article, you may not be the next Dr. Deming, who said all variation is a loss to society, but hopefully you’ll have an appreciation of the importance of your behavioral consistency as a leader, whether you’re a leader at home, at work, or at play.

There was a time when I was a bit of a statistical geek. I was a “Certified Quality Engineer” by the American Society of Quality and I routinely conducted experimental designs in a manufacturing operation along with all the basic and advanced statistical analyses. There was nothing I loved more than calculating control limits by hand and drawing them out on “plot paper” so I could track operational performance by the hour at the mega-chemical complex in which I worked. I read Juran and Deming’s books, attended some of the first six sigma training (conducted by Motorola University and later Allied Signal, Honeywell, and GE). I even had Dr. Deming autograph one of my books at a conference he taught.

Those days are years behind me, but the one statistical concept I think about daily is “consistency.” Some people naturally look for consistency while others naturally look for inconsistency. Did you know that? Which are you? Do more easily see the common ground (similarities) or do you more readily see differences? Did you know more people see differences than similarities by their nature, at least in the United States.

But what does all this have to do with leadership? Well, almost everything. You see if you want to be an authentic, transformational leader, you need to demonstrate behavioral consistency. Others are watching. Your spouse is watching. Your kids are watching. Your neighbors are watching. Your employees, boss, and peers are watching. In short, everyone is watching.

Does his “walk match his talk?” Does she do what she says she’s going to do? Is he nice one day but mean the next? Is she only bearable when she gets her way? And on it goes. People are watching your consistency. They want to know if you’re shallow or deep, a real leader or a fake. They want to know if they can trust you. They want to know if they can believe in you. They want to know if you’re worth following.

World-class leaders may not all be statistical geniuses, but their behaviors are consistent. World-class moms know that behavioral consistency leads to healthier relationships within the home. World-class coaches know that behavioral consistency leads to stronger teams. World-class business executives know that behavioral consistency leads to more effective organizations.

There are some differences in the tomatoes pictured above. If you looked closely at the original photo, you’d see some are bigger than others. You’d see that some are a slightly different shade of red. You’d see that some have moderately different shapes. But, be honest, don’t you see the degree of consistency amongst the tomatoes. They’re more similar than dissimilar.

This is how your behaviors should be day-in-day out, hour by hour. No, your behaviors won’t be exactly the same. We’re human after all. But your behaviors should display a strong degree of consistency, like the tomatoes. Consistency leads to healthy relationships and effective organizations. Inconsistency leads to dysfunctional relationships and ineffective organizations.

How about you? Do demonstrate behavioral consistency? Any favorite tips to share with other readers on how you maintain this consistency when conditions change?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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