Little glory, lots of hard work
“Leadership is an action, not a position.”
There’s a phrase that goes something like “people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I know personally, my favorite jobs. My most favorite jobs had little to do with pay or hours or even benefits. Each one of those jobs had one common core, and that was that I “wanted” to go to work there. Why? My bosses or my supervisors made the workplace a positive experience, kept it “interesting”, and they made me feel like I was important to the process, no matter how minimal my position or task. I generally left work each day feeling like I was a key piece in the overall puzzle and that felt…”gooood”! Not good, goooooood! When’s the last time you felt Goooood about what you were doing? Well, if you work for me, and are part of my organizations, you should feel that every day. Okay, okay, most days!
Anyway, I won’t say the job was always fun because there were always tasks I hated doing, but “hey” it’s a job, not recreation. What I remember was that the good bosses showed patience, were always positive in their demeanor, understood that I’d make a mistake or two along the way and they took the time to explain things. When I messed up or forgot something, they took time from their busy schedules to re-explain processes or correct me in a constructive manner even when my then young attention span wandered, and I went off task. I also remembered those “tyrants” that were overseers, micromanagers and well, just plain mean. You know the ones. They made you feel more like a tool rather than a real person, only fit for their manipulation, amusement and disposal when they were done with you. It’s actually how Plant Services, Inc was born. I just got fed up with corporate BS at my employer and their “chew ‘em up, and spit ‘em out” mentality towards employees. And arrogance…oh, how I learned to despise the arrogance and narcissism. So, I set out to build a company built on ethics and values that were people based and focused on a positive workplace that built people up, rather than tear them down.
I do have to say that it’s easy to fall in love with the allure of business ownership or becoming a person of influence such as a manager or supervisor. But no one realizes how challenging it can be to build a business or a work group that has a culture of positivity, learning and team building. There are serious demands that are dang hard to do every day, but those of us who follow them can reap the rewards of satisfaction of a job well done, as we know we are forming a new crop of leaders that we can be proud of. In honor of that, I’ve put together my favorite “laws of leadership” that I’ve gathered over the years. I’m sure there are other characteristics out there that some may like better, but these are mine. Leadership Never Stops First of all, Leadership is an “always” thing. You don’t get to “lead” today and then get a pass tomorrow. Leadership or the act of leading needs continued improvement every day. Your own personal growth and learning never stops and requires a lot of self-discipline and determination. I’m constantly “checking” myself to make sure “did I handle that right” and “did I help my employee back there, or hinder them?”
You also have to be prepared to wear many hats, depending upon the situation you have to handle. You have to be one part visionary, one part manager, one part counselor, one part friend, one part den-mother, one part teacher and one part…well, you get the idea. Diversity be thy name, right? Let me tell you also, that from the moment you walk through the door, until you leave, you may be asked to fill every single one of those roles in a single day, possibly even multiple times for multiple people. But, as a leader, that is what is called for, so that’s what you do. Leadership is NOT a position You’ve seen those sitcoms where the “heel” boss thinks his employees listen to him because he is the “boss” because his name tag says so, when really, it’s the funny, smart lead character of the show that really “gets things done” and gets the other employees to “handle” business and thus eventually make that “boss” look good, for which he does takes credit for, of course. Well, that don’t happen. At least not in our world it doesn’t. Great leaders become just that through exhibiting great ethics, character and nurturing their relationships with employees and sharing their knowledge and experiences freely. They share their past successes and failures with others so they can help minimize others making the same mistakes. Pretty soon, others will naturally gravitate to a leader, knowing
there is knowledge and help in their words, so to listen and follow those words will lead you too, down the right path to your own leadership someday. This is also the “E.F. Hutton” law. You know that old commercial (which was remarkable marketing, by the way), where the guy from E.F Hutton says something in a room full of people and all at once, they all stop and lean in so they can hear the groundbreaking words of wisdom. Same thing here. Watch and really observe a room full of people and see the reactions and interaction that happen when the real leader speaks or takes action. A Leader’s Job is People First
I also call this Servant Leadership. With “Servant leadership” a leader basically puts their team member’s needs first and openly shares power with them by empowering them to actively participate in where the project or idea goes.
When I say that a leader puts their team member’s needs first, I mean that they make sure that they’ve given their team the proper knowledge, instruction, tools and support to do their job. For example:
Leader: “Hey John, did I get you everything you need to process those reports for the upcoming meeting?
John: “I received it all except those A/R numbers”
Leader: “Oh yeah, I’ll get those over in the next hour. After that, when do you think you’ll have those completed for our meeting?”
John: “They’ll be done by lunch for you.”
Leader: “Fantastic! I’ll look for them.”
See, in this interaction you really can’t even tell who the boss and the employee are, because they are working together as a team, without any pretense of boss vs employee. That’s the beauty! This type of leadership focuses on building up your team members and is a great way to foster free though, innovation and a better sense of making a difference in the outcome of each project or task taken on. A servant leader actively contributes to the personal development and performance of their team. Being Accountable and Responsible I’m talking about being accountable to your team, should you make that critical error as a leader. This is the toughest thing you’ll ever do when you are “in charge”, as there is an assumption that once you are in charge, you are not allowed to make errors, miscalculations, or mistakes, and that once you do have to own up to one, you lose that pretty sheen you had, and are now a “tarnished” leader. Now unfit to lead.
I beg to differ. It’s right now that you have an opportunity to gain even more respect from your team members, because you have the resolve to own up to commitments and promises that you have made. It’s because leaders hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their own mistakes—and by doing so readily, they can expect others to do the same. Leaders do not blame others when things go topsy-turvy. Rather, they take ownership, take action, and make things right. Be Positive I’m not talking about coming to work with your pom poms and turning yourself into a mindlessly happy cheerleader. (BTW, This is strictly paraphrasing, I would never infer that cheerleaders are mindless.) My point here is having a purposeful, positive mindset. Positive thinking has been proven to stimulate your brain and help make sure it is functioning at its best. It also boosts your energy levels, making you more alert and better equipped to perform. While reducing your stress, it also helps you think more clearly and improves your focus. All of these things add up to an effective, inspirational leader. Employees expect their leaders to be energized and passionate about what they do. One of a Leaders main goals is to inspire their team members with enthusiasm and a strong belief in where the organization is heading.
One thing is for certain, obstacle, failures and hard times are going to happen in the course of conducting any business. These could easily derail morale and reduce productivity. But a positive leader can control their reaction and stress to remain positive in the midst of difficult and stressful times. A Leader can then use that energy to uplift their team members’ spirits and give them direction and hope for a new, better day tomorrow. “Bing positive doesn’t guarantee your success but being negative will guarantee you won’t” Conclusion Leaders can and will make a difference in people’s lives, both personally and professionally. Great ones do it utilizing these skills, as well as other skills to accomplish a positive effect on those they influence. It may seem like some people are just gifted with these skills, and they may be, but the truth is, most leadership traits such as these can be learned and sharpened with time and practice by anyone who wants to. Just remember that leadership is not about titles, position, or power and that with hard work and effort, every person has the ability and potential to lead others to great achievement. “Do the right thing, whenever possible. It is always possible.”