S. Chris Edmonds, used with permission
Source: S. Chris Edmonds, used with permission

I had the immense honor to speak with a guru in our field, S. Chris Edmonds, about effective leadership. Chris is a speaker, author, and the executive consultant and founder of The Purposeful Culture Group. He's one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at SXSW 2015. I left our interview invigorated and ready to inspire organizational cultural change. I share some highlights of our interview below.

Effective Leadership

We discussed what it means to be an effective leader. “My mantra is that leaders need to pay as much attention to values as they do to results,” Chris said.

Most leaders know how to manage performance. But, the key to successful leadership is the other half of the equation (for which we do not necessarily get paid). Specifically, it’s a leader’s job to “create an inspired workforce that’s engaged and valued,” Chris said.

Chris helps leaders to form this “purposeful, positive, and productive” culture by encouraging them to create an environment “where people are treated with trust, respect, and dignity.”

It makes good sense that we should strive to help our employees to feel safe and secure. “Don’t leave your culture to chance,” Chris said. “You have to be as intentional and focused on holding people accountable for values as well as results.”

Matter of fact, Chris stated, “You are in charge of the quality of the work environment. If you aren’t paying attention to that, you are not going to have an inspired workplace.”

Chris shared his straightforward approach to define, align, and refine the workplace.

  • Define- When we define the workplace, we are “very specific about values and performance expectations,” Chris said. He proposes that we create an organizational constitution wherein we “define our desired culture and set up new rules and jobs for our leaders.” As leaders, we need to uncover the team’s purpose, and recognize that goes above and beyond just making money. We should consider values, like integrity, and related behaviors that we can observe and measure. Since everyone in the workplace may define values differently, it is important to be clear with our respective definitions. Leaders also set specific strategies and goals during the define stage.

  • Align- When we align, we share the rules and make sure that “all leaders live those values and behaviors,” Chris said. Leaders have to model this organizational constitution to “give it credibility.” He cautions leaders that all eyes will be on them, so they need to “live these behaviors every single day.” “People are going to judge you. You’ll never be able to run a yellow light again,” he said. At this stage, it is important to gather data on employee perception of how well leaders actually live these behaviors. Slowly, others will follow the leaders and align their values and behaviors, too. An environment of trust, honor, and respect will emerge.

  • Refine- Every two years or so, valued behaviors, strategies, and goals are refined and tweaked for relevance.

The Most Important Leadership Trait and Style

Chris is a huge proponent of servant leadership and says that “what we want and what we need” are leaders who “want to serve others, who genuinely love people, and who are humble.” 

Excellent leaders know how to serve the customer, the company, the team, and the individual employee.  “Nimbleness is vital,” Chris said. “The best bosses that I’ve had were very nimble, and were able to balance competing priorities in the moment honestly and in a caring way. That’s a delicate dance!”

Best Advice for a New Leader

Chris’ best advice for a new leader is not to fix anything—at first. Rather, “go in and observe” to uncover what is working and what is not working. Then, make your plan of action.

Best Advice for a Seasoned Leader

Chris shares that seasoned leaders often have “assumptions about how brilliant they are.” He encourages leaders to do some serious self-evaluation and to gather data from their team. “If your job is to help others succeed and thrive, dig in and see what is helping that and what is hindering that,” Chris said. Take ownership for your role in the overall workplace culture, and take the necessary steps to lead by example by practicing trusting, caring, and respectful behaviors.

And, if you desire a fully functional team, “define exactly what behaviors you expect from good team members. Then, praise and encourage those and quash everything else,” Chris said.

Finally, whether you are leading just a few people or several hundred, you are the “CEO of your team,” Chris emphasized. “If you want to craft an engaged, amazingly productive team that has fun,” embrace your sense of urgency and start right away. Important changes today will greatly impact future employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and performance.

It’s obvious that Chris practices what he preaches. He was incredibly kind, polite, and gracious. His passion for helping others is apparent. I was especially touched by his drive to create a fun and high performing workplace by focusing on behaviors relating to both elements. When we reinforce what matters, and lead by example, we create this culture of excellence.  

Thanks, again, to Chris for his insight! Want to learn more about Chris and his work? Read his Amazon best seller The Culture Engine and his five other books. See his blog, podcasts, and videos at Driving Results Through Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @scedmonds, and on Vimeo and YouTube.

Want to learn more about handling difficult people in today’s workplace? Read my Amazon best seller Working with Difficult People. Follow me on Twitter at @amycooperhakim, and on LinkedIn and Facebook. Thanks for your support and interest!

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