Leadership ability is a nebulous concept. There's certainly nothing simple about it. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Years ago, being a leader meant giving orders to others and accepting no excuses if subordinates couldn't get the job done. Today, that style of leadership has changed. The person who simply bosses others around has gone the way of the Neanderthal man. We have become more enlightened about how to deal with others and what it takes to have happy, productive workers. But there are still too many people around who believe everyone comes from the same mold. They don't understand that individuals have many differences in terms of what motivates them. These so-called leaders look at people in ways that are too simplistic. I'm the first one to preach simplicity, but that leadership approach won't cut it in today's complex world.
Sure, the toughest part of leadership is dealing with people. But it's also the best part of the job if you're a true leader. A good friend of mine once built a successful business in a relatively short time. Brick by brick he put together an organization that became tops in its field. His firm was headquartered in the Midwest, and we used to talk to each other occasionally. I lost track of him for a while, but a couple of years later I ran into him at a conference and asked how things were going. He told me he had moved to a new location in the Southwest. That surprised me, but when he told me he had scaled back his business, I was even more surprised. This is what he said: "I got sick of all the people problems I had. I'm back working solo, and my business is good. What a relief it was to make things simple again." That was his solution to the problems he was having. He just wasn't cut out to deal with the people side of leadership.
That's a tough thing to teach. The ability to deal with people doesn't come easily. It borders on "gut instinct" because every person is unique. We all have different dreams, needs and wants. That's what makes managing so intriguing. Unless leaders recognize this, they'll never have good relations with their employees. It's why some leaders succeed and others fail. They don't realize that leadership is more than giving orders. It's more than a performance review once or twice a year. It's more than giving an annual raise and an occasional pat on the back. Leadership is a tough job requiring tremendous humility. People in leadership positions who think they are infallible and omniscient are usually poor leaders. They don't take advantage of their employees' skills, talents and knowledge, so they waste a precious resource.
Leaders must be willing to spend the necessary time working closely with those who report to them. Success emanates from the top down, but it's a two-way street. Leaders must give their people plenty of time to vent their needs, wants, likes and dislikes. That means listening, which takes skill and concentration. The temptation to talk and have others listen is seductive, but it must be avoided.
Another part of leadership is avoiding the trap of competing with your colleagues. This, unfortunately, happens all the time. Some leaders seem to think they are the whole show and won't share the glory with their peers. Competent, professional leaders love to see their people succeed, and they revel in their accomplishments. They think of themselves as servants and expediters, not bosses. In my book, top leaders are so confident of their skills that they don't need to prove their abilities by intimidating others. On a daily basis they make sure their employees are treated with dignity and respect. Leaders truly love people, and that's the key to their success.
People make it happen,
Charles S. Lauer