Behind the leader's back there is a culture he or she has created and the stories are told and retold of things he's said, things she's done. No amount of coaxing, cajoling, threatening or bribing on the boss's part could ever get those stories told to his or her face. If you're the boss, you'll never really know what people are saying about you when you're not around.
If you have been an amazing leader, like a lady I once reported to, the legends speak of compassion, vision, determination and fairness.
Sometimes the stories are not so kind. You might be surprised which of your behaviours your subordinates least respect. You might be surprised to learn what they notice, which of your behaviours they model and which they wouldn't touch if you paid them.
It seems to me that one way to succeed in leadership of people or to be a sales or service leader might be to ask yourself what kind of stories you want told behind your back, and then govern your behaviour to fashion the tale.
Do you want to be known for your integrity and loyalty? Want your team to be people with a good balance of priorities? Want truth and conviction in the workplace, a commitment to excellence and top-of-mind customer awareness? Do you want your company to succeed?
Be the servant leader who demonstrates daily what the company values really mean. Have lunch in the company cafeteria and fly coach. Be loyal to your spouse and to your family. Go home when the job is done, turn off the Blackberry and spend some time with your family and friends. Volunteer in the community with a cause you really care about, not necessarily the glamorous cause-du-jour. Skip the galas and the fundraisers and roll up your sleeves even when the cameras aren't present.
We notice. We'll follow you anywhere.