A Key Leadership Lesson from the Elite Team at Hawaii Five-O

Book ‘em Danno! Who can ever forget this iconic line from the famous TV police series Hawaii Five-O?  It’s a popular show at our house. After all, there’s lots of drama and action plus the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes. But almost every time I watch the show I just end up feeling cheated, confused and frustrated.

Detective Steve McGarrett leads this elite team. They exude a culture of perseverance, teamwork, and high performance. Inevitably their investigation leads to the chase and take-down scene. The team members pursue their suspects with guns pulled through some building, then back out into the daylight, over a fence and finally out into the street. They raise their semi-automatic guns and focus on the getaway car peeling away from them. And then it happens — despite a rail of bullets, no one on this elite team can hit a tire! Really?

The Authentic Leader

For me, the authenticity of the whole premise falls apart right there (Of course my husband reminds me that it’s just a TV show.) But what if this was real life?  What happens to your employees when your leadership team is less than authentic? Do they feel cheated, confused and frustrated?

The actions and behaviours of your leadership team define your organization’s culture. When your own values match the values of your organization, it’s easy to be authentic. It allows you to naturally walk the talk. But sometimes we don’t know our own values and we aren’t mindful of our behaviours.

Being Mindful

Here’s an example of not being mindful from Bob Anderson, founder and CEO of the Leadership Circle. He describes an organization’s struggle to promote empowerment saying, “Managers, who are genuinely committed to empowerment, unconsciously and reflexively continue to take over, take control, step into delegated decisions, concern themselves with detail they don’t need to be concerned about, and withhold authority that was promised. Taking too much control while talking about empowerment encourages those below to avoid taking the change effort seriously and accepting responsibility for its success.”

Your employees are watching you to see just how serious you are about all this culture stuff. As Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State once said: “Everyone on a team knows who is and who is not performing, and they are looking to you as the leader to see what you are going to do about it.”  And performance here includes how things get done.

Delivering Authentic Leadership

So how can you ensure you are being authentic and behaving in a way that drives a successful culture? Here are some activities you can engage in to build your authentic leadership.

  • Find out what motivates you. Click here to take a personal values assessment.
  • Participate in a 360-degreesurvey to find out how your behaviours are actually being perceived at different levels in the organization.
  • Learn how to be more mindful about your impact on the organization.  Start a journal and ask yourself, “How did I do today?” “How could I do better next time?”
  • Engage an Executive Coach to help imbed new competencies that you may need to be successful. Every elite athlete uses a coach –- shouldn’t you?
  • Find out more about Authentic Leadership. Here are two resources I recommend: Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value by Bill George or The Authentic  Leader: It’s about Presence not Position by David Irvine.

Delivering on your TV Ad

Your success in driving a strong, positive culture depends on your ability to model the desired values of your organization. If you want your employees to take you seriously you have to get serious about your own behaviours.

The Hawaii Five-O TV ad promises the viewer a top-quality police service drama.  Your culture communications are your TV ad. They are a promise to your employees and future prospects.

Don’t leave your employees feeling cheated, confused and frustrated. Step into your authentic leadership. Create a workplace that inspires your employees. This way they’ll come to work every day anticipating the next episode!

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