Leadership: The ability to rally others and having them faithfully follow you into whatever cause or battle ensues.
That may be a little dramatic, but the point is there. When thinking of leadership, the first thing that comes to mind is William Wallace (the famed hero of Braveheart) rallying his troops to battle. The opposing view on the field of battle was of leaders on horses sitting high above their soldiers, casually giving orders and observing from a safe distance.
Which would you follow? Which represents the current leadership in your life? Consequently, if you are ‘The Leader’ in your organization, which Leader are you?
Critical Leadership Areas
You would prefer to think that when you were hired, your employer considered other candidates and felt that you were the best person for the job. Making that choice, a Leader would then have the faith to let you do your job. They would have the faith that you have the skills and talent to complete the job that you were hired to do.
The lesser-Leader micro-manages their employees. Lacking the faith to allow their employees to grow and make decisions. Just because a Leader makes decisions, that does not make them a micro-manager. However, making every decision come through them shows a lack of faith in their employees.
The Takeaway: As a Leader, trust in your employees and give them autonomy to make decisions about certain levels of work. You will, of course, tackle the larger issues that have graver consequences for the organization but don’t stifle your employees through making ‘all’ of the decisions.
There is enough chaos in the world on an everyday basis. The added chaos of a Leader who is inconsistent can be exhausting and suck the life out of an organization.
Showing too much emotion on either end of the perspective can have daunting effects. Acting over-the-top excited has a very faux feeling to it and can actually seem a little psychotic. This is not to say that enthusiasm isn’t important, but save your Steve Balmer enthusiasm for very specific moments that are worthy of this type of response.
The other end of the spectrum is snapping negativity. Raising your voice or overreacting in a negative way to staff ends in distrust and avoidance. It creates an atmosphere of fear in the workplace. Ruling by fear works when the Leader is always in front of the employees. But when the Leader steps away for any small instance of time, a rumble of disdain and rebellion is left behind. This is leadership by force. These leaders are never followed but are avoided by staff at all costs.
The Takeaway: Don’t overreact to any given situation. Work on your emotions. Being level-headed with employees makes you a leader worthy of following. The same employees will want to work ‘for’ you, not pushing ‘against’ you.
In considering great leaders, many scenes come to mind from the movies and from my personal experience. I envision Patton taking the time to walk among his soldiers. I picture a past boss that would take the time to stop in the doorway to my office and check in on me—and do the same with my co-workers—and made me feel that I was more than a simple ‘cog in the work engine’ of the office.
As a Leader, you are busy with paperwork. You’re busy with phone calls. You’re busy in meetings. The simple truth, there does not seem to be enough hours in the day to finish the basic work required to keep the business afloat.
“So what you’re telling me is that I need to carve out time in the day to wander around and play nice with the staff?”
If the only time that your staff sees you one-on-one is in your office when something has run afoul, then they will avoid you at all costs. When the only other time they see you is when you are speaking to everyone at some type of staff meeting, you will seem out of reach to them. And by the way, just saying that “I have an open door policy” with my staff does not cure this issue. This sort of policy too often resembles the “open door policy” that existed at the Principal’s Office in school. How often did you take advantage of that to chat with the principal?
The Takeaway: Make the first move. Actually come out of your office and ‘go to’ your staff. Take a minute to actually hear what they have to say. Respond back to their comments and show that you are listening to them. Be careful though, you may actually get to know your staff and find that you did an awesome job in your hiring decisions.
Of course, the above observations are not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. Ask yourself this questions, “Am I pushing my staff or are they following me?” Simple question. Simple answer.