It’s a word that is thrown around like everyone knows what it means – while thousands of people make a living off preaching to others what it should actually mean to them and how to achieve it. Truth is, this topic is so subjective that if anyone tells you they have the golden ticket to solving all of your leadership issues, only one thing is certain – they are lying.
When we mention the word leadership most people automatically assume we are talking about the business/working environment but I believe it extends way beyond those parameters into your personal relationships, parenthood, hobbies etc.
Over the years, throughout my many careers, I have found myself in both leadership and followership roles and my opinions are based solely on my personal experiences.
Everyone has the ability to be a good leader. All it takes is an emotional investment or connection with the task at hand and the help of those people that surround you. Unfortunately, what I am describing only exists in a utopian society and as we all know, few rarely get to experience that. All too often, not everyone on the team pulls in the same direction. You will always get those people that have their own personal interests and agendas foremost in their minds and as a leader your greatest battle is to create a “we” instead of “I”.
People in positions of authority usually have deadlines, budgets and a host of other issues that they are trying to juggle at the same time. In turn, our human survival mechanisms are triggered due to stress hormones and we try to problem-solve ways and means of alleviating our workload. The next logical step is to find the capable people under your command and place some of your workload on them; the net result being that they become overworked, jaded and disillusioned with their position within the company. The key word I use here is capable. As a person in authority why would you try and alleviate your workload by giving it to someone who is incapable?? Usually it will just result in a sub standard product and ultimately either look bad on you or fall on your desk for you to right the wrongs thereby defeating the objective of delegating job tasks in the first place right? Wrong! As a person in authority, it is your job (I would go as far as saying it is your legacy) to inspire all of those people under your command to produce sound work. It is far too easy to continually place demands on the people that continually do the job correctly. You need to place ownership and responsibility on the shoulders of those people that in your opinion produce sub standard work or don’t seem to be invested in the task oriented goals. You never know, those people might just surprise you – and isn’t it also your job as a leader to create leaders?? You may have to answer to your bosses for missed deadlines etc but by showing your workforce that you believe in them and you are willing to protect them from the hierarchy will ultimately be paid back to you in kind twofold.
One of my mentors once told me that the success of any human endeavor is directly related to the quality of the relationships of the people involved – I couldn’t agree more. I have been fortunate enough to experience this and the power it brings to all involved is tangible.
In the current climate where the Millennials are now entering the workforce I could throw out leadership adjectives you should be following like empathy, vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness, generosity, balance, patience…… but what do they really mean? You can sit through a lecture where somewhere preaches these fundamentals to you, hell, you may even nod your head in agreement, but once you return to your normal base of operations all thoughts of inclusiveness, empathy, balance etc disappear with the reappearance of your ridiculous workload.
To be a good leader you have to “know thyself.”You have to look inside those places you seldom want to look because you might not like what you see. By exposing all of you to yourself those inbuilt fears of failure, looking weak in front of your peers etc. no longer have power over you. If you are afraid of asking for help when you need it, how can you expect others under your command to do the same? Your greatest strength is your humanity. Lead like you would like to be lead, be an open book, always have your door open, be totally transparent and inspire others with the “do as I do” NOT the “do as I say” philosophy – you never know, you may just get a taste of that tangible power I mentioned earlier.
In our current society we rarely know that much about the person that sits in the cubicle next to us and if you want something from them, instead of getting up and poking your head around the partition, you will send them an email. It’s ridiculous. If you are in a position of power, get to know the people you employ. Take the time to be invested in them, get to know their interests outside of work – five minutes of your time is nothing to you but it is a huge deal to them. Create a feeling of unity and importance amongst your employees and even you will be surprised at the net result.
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