My last post on the shaping power of leaders made me think a little bit more about what leadership is. Over the years, I've seen both good and bad examples of leadership, as well as quite a few people who seemed confused on the differences between good and bad leadership. If you're one of those, then here's a handy reference to help you out:
- "Rallying the troops" to work the weekend when you've done nothing all week to help them.
- Creating a false sense of urgency to trick people into working harder.
- Measuring success based upon who comes in earliest, stays latest, and complains the most about how hard they're working.
- Giving your team the information that they need to understand the real deadlines that are driving their work, then giving them the tools to complete their work on time.
- Removing obstacles to your team's progress as soon as they appear.
- Driving timely decision-making so that work can be finished by Friday.
- Measuring outcomes, not effort.
- Doing someone's work for them because "that's the only way it will be done correctly."
- Doing your team's work for them because they are too poorly trained, incompetent, or lazy to do it for themselves.
- Teaching people to work for themselves and allowing them to do things differently than you would have done them, as long as the outcome still meets the need.
- Looking for weaknesses in your team's skill sets, then filling them with training and coaching.
- Being patient when someone isn't as fast or as good as you are, so that they have the opportunity to get there someday.
- Allowing an individual to fail because you're not comfortable having a hard conversation with them to tell them they're failing.
- Allowing a team to fail because you're too nice to fire someone who really needs to be fired.
- Being your team's buddy when they need you to be their boss.
- Setting clear expectations and holding people accountable for delivering on them.
- Freeing high performers to reach their potential by surrounding them with other high performers and removing people who can't or won't keep up with them.
- Recognizing that being the boss sometime means that you have to make the tough decisions that no one else is able to make. That's why they pay you the big bucks.
- Criticizing people for their mistakes in front of their peers.
- Making jokes at people's expense when they're in no position to do the same with you.
- Rallying your team by telling what you want them to do rather than focusing on what you don't want them to do.
- Praising people publicly when they do a good job and discussing their shortfalls privately when they make a mistake.
- Using humor to defuse tension and make work enjoyable, but not at the expense of someone over whom you have authority. Being willing to laugh at yourself, especially when you make mistakes.
The same goes for making jokes at your team's expense or singling people out for their differences. You may think they're laughing with you, but do they really have a choice? When the boss tells a joke, people laugh, even when they're cringing inside. Many times in my career, I've worked with people who didn't understand this and thought that they had a great, joking relationship with their underlings, never realizing that the jokes were rarely bidirectional. I like to use humor myself, but I'm always conscious of this dynamic and the impact my words might have on those who consider me an authority figure, whether they report to me or not. While it's possible to create a friendly, humor-filled dynamic on a team, the good leader is always conscious of the weight of his words, using self-deprecation as his favorite tool and allowing two jokes at his expense for every one directed at someone else. As Cyrano de Bergerac said:
So far –
If you let fall upon me one hard word,Out of that height – you crush me!
If you're a leader, then I hope this little leadership primer has helped clear some things up for you. If you're among the led (and aren't we all, at some level or another?) and you feel that your leader could use a refresher course, feel free to print this out and tape it where they can see it. You might want to do it anonymously, though, in case they haven't read Cyrano.