For example, spies--well-trained and well-versed in the English language--didn’t just speak the language translated from Russian. Rather, they used idioms, slang and references one could only pick up in America. American phrases like “test-drive,” “get going,” and “two scoops” are only practiced in America.
Why does this matter? Not only would neighbors of this fictitious family feel comfortable with someone using these terms, but people would notice if someone omitted these phrases. Spies appear American, even when they’re not paying attention.

Likewise, leaders must always lead, as agents take notice of behaviors beyond speeches and announcements. People know when their floor director is authentic, and they will follow you only as long as your day-to-day actions allow.

1. Be honest. If you are making decisions that go against the immediate interests of your staff, say so. Don’t hide it, and don’t call it something it isn’t. If your company is changing direction, tell your employees. Let them know how these changes will look tomorrow, next week, next year. If processes will be harder, inform them. Call centers so often hijack their own staffing by ignoring reality. Agents have eyes, ears and minds at work. They recognize when you insult their intelligence, and they will rightfully resent it. Transparency, however, often helps agents feel included in the process, which will, in turn, slow attrition.

Data can help you stay honest. When coaching, let the data illustrate your points. If conducting a town hall to speak to pending changes to the company, have your data do the heavy lifting for you. When conducting your calibrations, show with data where your team is succeeding, and where it’s failing.

2. Be positive. Attitude trickles down from the top. If you make disparaging, contradicting or angry remarks in a private meeting, that message, either verbal or emotional, will eventually find its way to the floor. If you say in a meeting that a policy, procedure or result is “stupid,” or that “agents are lazy,” you authorize your subordinates to treat policies or employees with disrespect.

3. Put your money where your mouth is. Teams need to be pushed. Employees will need correction. But placing demands on your staff is an agreement. You also have the responsibility to provide tools they need. Pushing for results in a sales environment, for example, only works if you provide the proper training, systems and bonus structure to foster success. An inadequate training curriculum, a glitchy ordering system or short-changing high-performers will show you as an out-of-touch supervisor detached from the realities of the floor, eviscerating your credibility.

Leadership is not a deception, an act of espionage meant to serve sinister ulterior motives. Leadership is a stewardship, one that must be honored with honesty, positivity and investment. Without the foundation of these three basic traits, you are not the CEO you think you are, but rather someone watching his followers pass, wondering who is leading them.