Great Leaders are Consistent

Gas station pump

If you own a car, you know that it requires gas to run. Even my Toyota Prius requires gas although I joke with people that if you start with an empty take and drive it 500 miles, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination the tank will be full of gas. Despite my silliness, it still requires gas.

A week ago, I was at the grocery store and decided to fill up with gas. I have a habit of running my tank nearly empty before I fill it up. Perhaps it’s because I know that if I fill it up when it’s empty, I make less trips to the gas station. Those of you who fill up your tank when it’s only half-way empty are making twice as many stops as you need to and, in effect, operating with a tank that is ½ its actual size. For example, if you have a 12 gallon tank and fill it up when it gets to 6 gallons, you’re basically operating on a 6 gallon tank with a 6 gallon reserve (and filling up twice as often as necessary).

I’ve driven in all but 1 state (Alaska) and I’ve driven over a million miles, but I’ve only run out of gas once. I was 19 years old and I was driving between Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina. My wife (girlfriend at the time) was driving with me. I knew I was pushing it. I knew I had a ride if I ran out of gas. And I did. 15 miles from home. In a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. We drove to the nearest gas station a couple miles away, filled up a container with 2 quarts of gasoline (that’s all I could afford at the time and I had to scrape together some coins for that as I wasn’t paid until the following Friday) and drove into Beaufort. Since that day, I’ve never run out of gas. Although I still push it. For example, on a regular basis, my Prius says I have a remaining range of 15-20 miles. For a car that gets 50+ miles to the gallon, that’s not much. Perhaps a quart or two. Just like old times.

At the grocery store, I called my wife and asked her to take a picture and text me the gasoline code. If you use the gas pumps at the grocery store, you get a discount based on the amount you’ve spent on groceries in the last week or so. She had the most recent receipt and sent me a picture. I put the code into the pump, got 6 gallons of gas (an unusually low number for me, perhaps even a record, but the code was about to expire so I had to act quickly). In the end, I spent 5 minutes getting the code and entering it. I saved exactly 12 cents!

But here’s what I know about myself. With some things, I’m extremely cheap. I’ll buy the cheapest tissue. If eating out, sometimes I’ll forgo getting an iced-tea because I don’t want to pay $2 for it. Yet I spend money on a good prime ribeye. If I’m cooking or grilling, I use only the best ingredients. I drive a 7-year old Prius but I give a significant portion of my income to the local church and other charities. I could’ve bought 2 nice homes for what I’ve spent on my children’s college educations. Yet I bend down to pick up pennies in the parking lot. And I went 5 years before replacing a pair of worn out Rainbow sandals. I just kept wearing the old ones although they were barely held together.

The point? At least from the outside, I’m not always consistent with how I spend my money. Now those who know me and what I value know that I value the local church, they know I value education, they know I value good food with friends and family, and they know I don’t really value “things.” So they might say my spending is consistent with my values. Regardless, waiting for my wife to send me the code to save 12 cents caused me to think.

I thought about whether I’m consistent as a leader. You see great leaders are consistent. They’re not moody. They treat people well regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Great leaders don’t play favorites and they don’t pick on people. You heard the old adage that your character is defined by what you do when no one’s around. Do you stop at that 4-way stop in the middle of the country when no one’s around? Do you drop a conversation when someone more important walks into the room? Do you hold one person or department to a higher standard?

So sure there’s a place for situational leadership. You don’t treat a 5-year old the same as a college student or a seasoned executive. But there’s a consistent manner in which great leaders treat others. They don’t reinforce organizational silos. They don’t say good morning to some while ignoring others. Great leaders have good self-awareness and strive for consistency.

I’m blessed to have 3 children. Two are through with school and working. One is still in college. They’re different and my interactions with them look different. Why? Because they’re unique and our relationships are therefore unique. But I’m consistent. I call them each regularly. I pray for each daily. I spend the same amount of money on them. I encourage each of them. I’m equally interested in their lives. You get the idea.

Think about your behavior this week. Are you demonstrating consistency or are you playing favorites? Can those who follow and depend upon you count on consistency or does your mood change with the wind? Be a great leader. Demonstrate consistency.

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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One thought on “Great Leaders are Consistent

  1. Bob, this one is a ringer. Goes in my Top 10 Gerwig leadership articles. Challenging, thought provoking and interesting.
    I too have in my million miles – so far no empty tanks. But, I do fill up when I pass my preferred gas station if the tank is under half full – as a matter of convenience. And I think you know, I gave Debby a birthday gift of “not having to pump gas for a year” about 30 years ago. And ….. since then she has pumped gas very few times – and then, only when I am out of town for several days. (Be careful of those “one year” gifts.
    I too had an early days VW Beetle – 1965. It had no gas gauge!! There was a spare tank with a gallon or two in it. When you ran out of gas you switched to the spare and started looking for a gas station.
    Last, let me testify that you do indeed consistently value the church, education and good food!!
    Russell

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