Yes, “leadership” is a buzzword, but I think we have so many confusing voices trying to explain what it is that no one really understands what it is. I have decided to add to the confusion — only because I think I can actually help.
My husband has told me of a manager at his company whose philosophy is that I won’t ask you to do anything that I’m not doing. Oops! This slight twist on the saying is crippling. Employees sit around waiting to be delegated work, the manager is too busy to manage, and the division of his company isn’t necessarily as effective as it could be. Imagine the CEO trying to pitch in with everything from janitorial services on up the company chain!
I worked under a boss once who was simply blind to the inconsistencies in what she practiced as compared to what she preached. In staff meetings, it was about taking small steps in implementing positive change, servant leadership, and other jargon. In practice, if you did not perform to the standards she set for you, you were placed on her discard list — and often found your performance evaluation scores manipulated to make you believe that your job was in jeopardy.
True leadership is about building members of a team. It is about seeing yourself as a mentor and creating collaborative plans to build strengths and strengthen weaknesses. It is about everyone having the opportunity to grow and become the best version of themselves.
I don’t think that it’s a hard or unrealistic as it sounds, and I think it works in businesses, in families, and in any situation where people are trying to work together.
- Involve others in a challenge. Instead of the dreaded “You’re failing and here’s the plan to fix it” speech, present a problem to be solved. Have a brainstorming session, searching for reasonable solutions. Refuse to allow anyone to try to throw blame around — keep things focused on creating a solution. Encourage the team to create a personal action plan right then and there, even if it’s simply a couple of sentences. Drop by offices and check in on progress.
- Be sure to have confidence in your people. As you check on progress, be sure that each person knows you are only there to offer help if it’s needed. Let each person contribute in their own, unique way. Often, you find that their way is as good or better than your own!
- Give honest feedback. Sure, you want to be as kind and positive as possible, but you may have to let someone know they fell short of expectations. Listen to explanations, and work through excuses together. Offer your assistance, if possible.
- Give full credit. Even if you helped and supported along the way, let others have the credit for their hard work. Sure, you’re the leader, but a leader accomplishes very little without the hard work of the people he or she is leading! Give the credit, and don’t worry so much about your accolades — your abilities will be noticed, too.