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The Secret Sauce of Great Leadership

A calendar and clock representing consistency

This blog appears in the July 2024 edition of Business Record’s Business Insights 

If I ask you to name the top five characteristics of great leadership — quick, off the top of your head — what comes to mind? If you’re a student of leadership and names like Jim Collins, Brene Brown, and Adam Grant are like old friends, you might list qualities like ambition, vulnerability, curiosity, or adaptability. And yes, these qualities are certainly important to develop and nurture in order for leaders to be the best versions of themselves.

But there’s a secret sauce that often gets forgotten in the leadership recipe. It’s less sexy than some of the other buzzy terms and trends, and yet it’s absolutely critical for leaders who want to retain an engaged team and workforce.


Often, organizations approach me seeking help with team culture, communication, trust, emotional intelligence, or team-building. There are science-backed solutions for each of these common challenges, and I love building customized experiences to help companies troubleshoot and improve in these areas. Often, leaders have already put in some work: Maybe they’ve put their executive team through workshops or trainings. But the results just aren’t sticking. And when we dig in, we often find that consistency is what is lacking.

Consistency means two things:

  1. backing up what we say with what we do, and
  2. sticking with changes for the long haul.

The first one is straightforward: It’s about authenticity. Employees can spot it immediately if their organization pays lip-service to emotional intelligence but is led by leaders who aren’t themselves vulnerable or humble. Or if a company preaches work-life balance but continually piles extra duties onto employees’ plates. The change must be consistently baked into leaders’ actions, not just their words.

The second is tougher. Imagine your organization hosts a well-received training about trust-building and communication. The executive team leaves the training feeling empowered and excited to implement changes in their approach. Two months later, an intense external challenge arises that shifts the team’s focus to problem-solving. Very quickly, the new tools the team learned are abandoned in order to focus on the immediate threat. It’s easier for people to return to old patterns — especially in times of pressure — than devote time and capacity to new behaviors and processes, even when we know those approaches work. Progress is shelved. The investment is lost.

This is where a leadership coach comes in. A coach is like your external accountability partner, maintaining consistency when you can’t. My long-term coaching clients have done the work to build the knowledge and skills they need to understand their organization’s issues, they’ve established new practices and mindsets, but even the most dedicated leaders can sometimes get lost in emergent priorities. A workplace coach is there to nudge the train back onto the track so that results are durable and consistent.

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