This is the second part of a three-part series dealing with leadership. Keep in mind that this topic is not intended to promote a post-apocalyptic, socialist situation where the “leader” makes others work for him or for the “good of the group” and confiscating the fruits of someone else’s labor for his benefit. These articles are written to promote better and more efficient way for people to interact. In the end, even if there’s one family of four members and the head of the family acts with disrespect to the other members, the family can break up. It happens all the time…
All good leaders are made. Leadership is a skill and like any other skill it can be taught. There are those people who have a predisposition for understanding this topic better than others, just like there’s are those who are naturally better at drawing or understanding mechanics or mathematics better than others, but in the end, leaders are made through learning and practicing a set of principles and skills. This means that anyone can become a good leader or a good manager. The problem is that most of us have no idea what that means and therefore it is very hard to set an objective to work towards.
In the first part of this article we discussed the DO’s. That is those points that a good leader should always do. In part two we will examine what a leader must avoid at all costs. So for those that might find themselves in a leadership position DON’T EVER:
EXPECT YOUR FOLLOWERS TO DO STUFF YOU CAN’T
Anyone who expects his people to do what he or she doesn’t feel like it or is unable to do will very soon lose all credibility. Any leader who gives instructions such as “go there’s and to that cause I’m too fat/weak/unskilled….fill in the blank” will not be successful for very long. The leader who expects people to do things he or she is not able to will soon find that people will assume that they are working for someone lazy, incompetent, or perhaps, someone who has his own agenda. This will breed distrust. In the end, those who remain working for this leader will do so because they expect something in return or they will do so because they think this is the best they can get. Either way, the integrity of the team will be compromised.
REPRIMAND, BELITTLE OR PUNISH YOUR FOLLOWERS IN FRONT OF THEIR PEERS
A good leader will never, under any circumstances, reprimand members of his team in front of anyone else. This point is so important its gravity cannot be overstated. There will probably never be anything as toxic to the welfare and working ability of your team as having its members mistakes exposed to everyone else. Accidents will happen, mistakes will be made, and wrong turns will be taken…count on it. People get overwhelmed, tired, wounded, and stressed. That’s the way it goes. A good leader understands this and works to prevent it. When things go wrong however, last thing that needs to happen is for everyone else on the team to witness the reaming out of one of their friends. If you have the luxury of an office, use it or wait until you are somewhere where you can take the delinquent aside and talk to him or her in a normal, but firm voice. When you cannot wait, communicate what you have to in a manner that offers assistance rather than demeans. The reason for this is that most people will feel belittled when reprimanded. This will cause them to become defensive and angry. Not only will they become angry towards you but also towards their fellow team-mates. The absolute worst version of this is when you are reprimanding another leader or someone in a supervisory position….in front of his or her followers. Have you ever heard the expression “Shit rolls downhill”? The whole team will be affected even if the supervisor you just punished decides not to take it out on them. If a leader controls his or her frustration and “chats” with the problem individual away from everyone else he or she will prevent resistance and possible reprisals. The individual at fault will be much more likely to take the criticism and learn from it.
EXPECT YOUR PEOPLE TO USE COMMON SENSE
This point may be puzzling to many but it is very important. Think about this; In Canada, all houses on a particular city block are numbered from the lowest to the highest, usually from the avenue up along the street. This is considered common sense. In Japan, the buildings on a given city block are numbered based on which building was build there’s first. This is also considered common sense but the two concepts are completely different and not interchangeable. So a Japanese man might have a hard time figuring out how to find an address in Canada unless someone explained the system to him. Everything is a learned skill including the most obvious things. When you instruct someone to use his common sense, they will without a doubt, search their memory for similar experience and use it to solve whatever problem they are working on. The problem with this is that, for example, a soldier will look at a particular situation completely differently than someone straight out of high school and an accountant will solve problems very differently than a dancer. If you have people from different cultures on your team this issue is magnified even more. When the leader gives out instructions such as “use your common sense” or “do what you feel is best” or “do whatever you think” he or she better be prepared to face the consequences. That means that there’s is no guarantee that the task will be accomplished with the results he or she expects. And that is because chances are that the person tasked with the solving of the problem most likely does not think exactly the same way the leader does. If the leader accuses the follower of “not using common sense” to solve a particular problem, what he’s saying is “you don’t think like me and that’s a problem”.
THINK THAT YOUR PEOPLE WILL NOT LOOK UP TO YOU
“Do as I say, not as I do” is a phrase that can generate lots of laughter and light hearted joking but it can also generate tremendous mistrust and even resentment. When a new leader is introduced to the team, there’s will be a level of automatic respect. This respect will either grow or diminish simply due to how the leader acts and behaves. If a particular rule is made and the leader is the one who brakes it, it won’t take long for the remainder of the team to understand that they have no real standing in the leader’s eyes and absolutely no respect. Resentment will begin to build up. The followers will always copy or mimic the leader because the leader is their only direction. He is the one they look up to and his path is the only one to follow. When he orders others to do something while he himself does things not in line with the objective, he is demonstrating that he doesn’t care about the objective so why should anyone else? If you expect everyone to be on time but you feel you can show up late you will find that it won’t take long and no one will even accept your instructions let alone your authority.
Many inexperienced leaders feel that their position warrants certain privileges. A great rule of thumb is to accept a leadership position as that position that everyone looks to when things go wrong. That is the true burden of leadership. When deadlines aren’t met, when companies fail, when people die it’s all about leadership. Nothing else. Of course CEO’s hate hearing that it is their running of companies that caused the injuries/damages/losses and they are among the first ones to point the finger elsewhere, but in the end it is the one on top of the heap who will accept responsibility.
As always, your comments are greatly appreciated. Feel free to leave your stories of good or bad leadership experiences.