04/09/2014 01:33 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

Being a Jerk Isn't Sustainable Leadership

If you want to be a lasting leader, you need to get good at both the "what" and the "how."

The "what" -- the results -- are the minimum stakes of leadership. If you can't deliver, you're not going to last. The "how" -- how you treat others and behave yourself -- is important if you want to stand the test of time as a leader.

After all, we're wired -- neurologically -- to remember vibrantly how we were treated ... like it happened yesterday. Less clear over time is the specific content of the task that was at hand. As a result, the lasting impressions we leave as leaders are how we treat our people.

When you deliver the what along with a really bad how, bravo, you pushed it over the finish line (oops, don' t look behind you). And you will eventually be rewarded with losing the privilege of leading. (Unless you are the CEO or on the board of directors, in which case, you'll tend to lose your best people.) It's important to be good at results and equally careful about how you get them, even when you think the organization doesn't care.

Now more than any other time in my ten years coaching executives I see a troubling trending mandate from boards and CEO's to management teams: Deliver, or else ... and we don't really care how you get there. It puts executives in "brute force" or "churn and burn through people" mode, and once that's worked its black magic, it ultimately leads to the "I was just following orders" leader's departure. I see it over and over again.

So if you're in churn and burn mode, or have lost the willingness to be careful and kind about how you treat others, know that you have made a conscious choice with significant negative consequences in the offing -- not only to yourself, but to others too. Change is up to you.

Self-coaching Questions for the Churners and Burners

1. What negative impacts am I having on people around me - my team, colleagues, customers, communities we serve, etc.?

2. How am I being unfair, ungrateful, cruel, arrogant, untrusting, remote/inaccessible, overly questioning, critical, or judging, or am I otherwise adding stress to others?

3. What rationalizations am I telling myself about why I'm being this way - e.g., are they "niceties" that I'm trading off "in the interest of time" or "to solve a crisis" or to hit a "short term goal"?

4. How can I let go of the excuses, and treat others in a more positive way?

5. How can I be a calm, confident, positive influence to all I encounter?

P&L's, companies, tasks, deliverables, to-do's, and projects come and go, while people and relationships endure. To put the what over the how is to fail to understand the fundamental nature of the work world. This is as true for individual leaders as it is for organizations, and bears a revised, more balanced approach among those who want to be sustainable leaders of lasting organizations.