“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. “-John Quincy Adams
If you don’t like it then leave mentality…
“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have
stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care.
Either case is a failure of leadership.”- Colin Powell
Many employees are living a career of quiet desperation when it comes to relying on management to solve problems in a timely and effective manner. The mentality of “If you don’t like it then leave…” has long been a mantra of those in key positions. Because of this subordinates have stopped bringing important issues to management for resolution. Employees have concluded through experience that management is not someone they can depend on or trust. Therefore, gray areas in policy and protocol are a constant source of contention, because employees do whatever seems right based on their own interpretations. This can cause an endless tug of war when interpretations conflict. Eventually the rope breaks and instead of having one team, you now have small groups working independently of each other. Quotas and deadlines are met; however friendly fire has taken its toll and increased the turnover rate of frustrated employees. In the eyes of management this collateral damage is par for the course, in business people ‘come and go’. This failure in leadership will always impede an organization from thriving in the industry instead of just existing.
Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”- John C. Maxwell
I am very fortunate to have experienced working ‘with’ management, instead of just ‘for’ management during my lifetime on several occasions. I remember one instance where my supervisor stood out because he fit in so well with us on the frontline. He was not one to sit behind a desk and ‘dictate’ orders until it was time to go home. We all have those tasks that aren’t difficult, but take up so much time because they can’t be rushed and attention to detail is a must. It can be compared to dotting the ‘I’s’ and crossing the ‘T’s’ on a 500,000-word document that was misprinted. He would take it upon himself to endure these menial tasks so we could continue to work on whatever we were doing. He would jump in and help without us saying a word, if we ran into an unforeseen obstacle. He had our utmost respect and trust, even if we didn’t agree with everything he did, we always knew he would do what he said he would do. Contention was addressed immediately void of all the formalities of scheduling a conference or filling out request forms. He brought all of us together, if it was appropriate, so that whatever was decided upon on how to resolve the issue was known by all. This left no room for personal interpretation, because we all knew exactly how the matter was judged. He would confront his bosses on many occasions for our sake. We always felt like he was one of us in the trenches sharing our defeats and victories, this made for an excellent work environment, where we would constantly go above and beyond what was expected of us.
Flexibility of business model
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”- Peter Drucker
When I mention flexibility of business model, it refers to how far an organization has strayed from its core business, not the ability to adapt to change. A major brand that realized the importance of focusing on what set them apart from everyone else was LEGO. In the early 2000’s LEGO was losing a million dollars a day. LEGO ventured out into theme parks, opened stores, started a video games division, published books, and added a clothing line. LEGO had no knowledge in these areas and suffered greatly for it. LEGO turned it around by streamlining the business. Selling the theme parks and reducing the number of elements of designs that could be used refocused LEGO on what they were unique for, modular pieces that can be put together in millions of ways. It is tempting to change the core business to keep up with the latest trends to increase profits. This usually leads to being mediocre in many areas, instead of mastering one.
Continuous fear of the company folding
In every crisis, there is an opportunity, the difference is how we respond.
When I was younger our house caught on fire. Fear filled the atmosphere just as fast as the smoke did. It was a fear not motivated by the possibility of losing our house, but the possibility that one of us would not make it out alive.
As a leader faced with the crisis of an organization folding, my response is to continue to empower my subordinates. If I respond by focusing on what I can take with me before I jump the sinking ship, then I have failed as a leader. If I respond properly during the crisis, there is a possibility that the situation can turn around, and progress be made. The profit and loss statement can either be tied to a pole and viewed as a flag of surrender, or placed on the floor as the starting point of a new opportunity to become better. No matter how far or hard I run away from the circumstances, they must be faced at some point, or the vicious cycle will continue from organization to organization. Any organization is susceptible to complete failure; however, the character of the leadership endures and overcomes these times.
Develop common sense thinking
A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
“An engineer was presented with the task of making a brighter headlight. The engineer accomplished this task, and the headlight was put into production. However, over time it was found that the headlight put too much strain on the battery and caused the vehicle to stop. The engineer failed to test the headlight in the actual vehicle to confirm any unforeseen issues.
Policies are made and revised to address problems that need to be resolved. They are usually made by individuals who have never applied them to themselves. Most of the times they are made from quick judgments that have detrimental results down the road. Leaders have a responsibility to demonstrate that the new policy will not cause more problems than it will solve. Common sense would dictate that it be tested on a small-scale first, or at the very least get feedback from the individuals that will be directly affected. Insight from those on the frontline is invaluable, and should always be factored in when developing policies.
I’m pleased to share my article featured in the e. MILE People Development Magazine: