Leading a MAGIC® Culture: What's Love Got to Do with It?

by Jean Marie Johnson

It is 2012 after all. And the "L word" is looking, well, a bit dated. But is it? What do our frontline associates need from us, today? Most of us would agree that it's a new world of service out there, increasingly-defined by a new breed of customer—savvy, informed, tweeting and opining without hesitation. This means our frontline is faced with fulfilling unprecedented expectations and a host of new challenges.  We are right to ask and to question how our MAGIC leadership matches up…and if and where "love" has anything to do with it.

Five Practices Equal Ten Leadership Truths

According to leadership gurus and researchers James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, "as much as the context of leadership has changed, the content of leadership has not changed much at all."

Hmmm. So we decided to take a fresh look at the thirty years of research which revealed their "Ten Truths about Leadership." "Love," in their view, has and does figure prominently, despite the discomfort that the word itself may evoke. And so do other timeless qualities that echo the MAGIC principles of respect for others and personal accountability, those that make us worthy of the "leader" moniker. More specifically, Kouzes and Posner's research identified five practices—things that exemplary leaders do. They:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart
These practices clearly align with MAGIC's delicate balance of relationship and task behaviors.

Refresh Your Leadership, Refresh Yourself

If you are like many of the leaders we work with, you sometimes, maybe often, feel mired in the weeds, not leading as you'd like to. But as we've often stressed, leadership isn't a specific "To Do" task or "To Do" in Outlook; it's the how of what you do and it expresses who you are. That message is confirmed and reinforced by the Kouzes and Posner list of truths, which we'll consider in reverse. As you take a look, maybe even a second look, ask yourself how you are expressing each "truth." Then acknowledge your strengths, and candidly consider your opportunities.

10. Leadership is an affair of the heart

  • I align with my organization's vision and the MAGIC concept that every contact I have can be so appropriate that people want to have another contact with me
  • I make my associates feel important
  • I consistently demonstrate my appreciation for each associate

9. The best leaders are the best learners

  • I am willing to learn from my successes as well as my mistakes
  • I consciously apply new behaviors so that I can grow as a leader

8. You either lead by example or you don't lead at all

  • I model the respect and accountability behaviors that I expect from my associates
  • I keep my word; "walk my own talk"
  • I admit my mistakes

7. Challenge is the crucible for greatness

  • I am supportive of my direct reports as they adapt to change and continue to develop
  • I challenge barriers in my organization to better serve both internal and external customers
  • I am passionate as I persevere to reach my organization's long-term goals

6. Trust rules

  • I build trust by letting my associates know that I trust them
  • I keep my promises and my word; I can be counted on
  • I am open and forthright in what and how I communicate
  • I am consistent in my behavior; others know what to expect

5. You can't do it alone

  • I listen to and understand the feelings, needs and perspective of my associates
  • I focus on bringing out the best in each of my associates
  • I partner with my associates in generating ideas and solutions

4. Focusing on the future sets leaders apart

  • I help my associates envision and focus on a positive future
  • I show my associates how what they do matters

3. Values drive commitment

  • I am clear about the personal values that guide me and how they align with our culture
  • I help others discover how their personal values align with those of our culture

2. Credibility is the foundation of leadership

  • I am honest: I do what I say I will do
  • I am committed to my organization and express a sense of ownership through my knowledge, skills and contributions

1. You make a difference

  • I believe in myself and in my ability to make a difference

So, where are you?  Where are you still learning and growing, as you must be?  Or, more importantly, who are you, as a leader? Why would your associates line up to follow you, given a choice?  Last question (we promise!), what does love have to do with it?

We've taken this question to heart over many years and many more miles traveled here and around the world.  As far as we can see, love has everything to do with leading an organization, with modeling the MAGIC way and inspiring others to do so, too.  It takes the form of "tough love" when a leader challenges barriers to showing respect and being accountable.  And, if it's not love that infuses the desire to encourage and to make it possible for others to bring the best of who they are to work, then what is it, after all?

Service capabilities and the expectations of customers will continue to evolve.  But as much as things change, the desire for leaders we are willing to follow, whole-heartedly, remains the same.

Based on the book, The Truth About Leadership, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, 2010.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.