Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB
Today we take a third look into qualities of leaders. Today we look at Respect…not just a great MoTown hit but also a critical aspect of leadership. Respect is another quality that separates managers from true leaders. Respect is one of those traits that is easily lost and difficult to gain. That truth applies to all people not just leaders. However, with those in leadership, the truth is even more pronounced. All you have to do to see that is just look at public figures. They may move along in relative anonymity (outside of their own jurisdiction) for years. However, it only takes a single misstep and they quickly become a national figure who is “embroiled” in a controversy that eventually claims their position.
Without respect from your followers you can never become an effective leader. I heard a great quote once about respect in leadership: “A leader without respect is apt to become like the groundskeeper at a cemetery; lots of people under him but nobody paying attention.” Followers who have not developed respect for their leader (or, even worse, who have lost their respect for the leader) tend to act and look like they are paying attention when the leader speaks. However, they rarely listen to anything except directions about moving forward. They ignore any comments about vision or personal comments. These same followers are also ones who, if the leadership is not changed, will be one of the first to look for alternate employment as soon as possible.
So, how do leaders (or rather those in leadership positions) gain the respect of their (assigned) followers? By creating open line of information exchange as mentioned in an earlier post. By truly living out an open-door policy for communication. By realizing that, most of the time, the end result is the key in a project and how a worker reaches that result is of comparatively little concern. In other words, unless the method that a worker uses to reach a goal either takes considerably longer or costs considerably more, allow the worker to use his/her preferred method rather than forcing another method on them to achieve the goal. Those who dictate methods rather than desired results are commonly referred to as “micro-managers”…not typically a positive nickname. However, the easiest way to garner respect from your workers/employees/followers is to follow the golden rule: “So, in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you.” If you treat people the way you hope to be treated, you will have a constant flow of respect and support.
In my last post, I mentioned that a critical ability for a good leader is that of information exchange. Today I look at another necessary quality: positive attitude and optimistic outlook. I talk about these together because they really go hand-in-hand. If you have ever known someone with a negative attitude, they usually also have a pessimistic outlook of the future. “Things are bad and they’re going to get worse before they get better,” seems to be their constant thought and expression. On the other hand, it is difficult to have a positive attitude if you think things are going to get worse in the future.
I’m reminded of a story that I read about a young psychology graduate who enlisted in the army. One night, he was placed on Kitchen Patrol serving apricots to the dinner line. One important note is that Army Apricots are notoriously bad and, as such, most soldiers do not take them when offered. This psychology student decided to try an experiment. For the first third of the line that night, he inquired about whether they wanted apricots by saying, “You don’t want apricots do you?” In that first third of the line 90% of the soldiers declined to take the apricots. For the second third, he changed and said, “You want apricots, don’t you?” Of that third, nearly half of them took the apricots. For the last third of the line, he changed again and said, “Do you want one dish of apricots or two?” Of that third, 40% of them took 2 dishes while 50% of them took 1 with only 10% of the soldiers declining to take the apricots. In retail, especially commission-based retail where I have also worked, this is known as suggestive, or even assumptive, selling. While working at Radio Shack, we were told that if a customer bought something that used batteries, we were to pick up the batteries on the way to the counter whether or not the customer requested them. We were to assume that the customers wanted them…a positive for us as commissioned sales staff because the more we sold, the bigger our paycheck. The manager knew from experience that if we assumed the customer wanted the batteries, they would be more likely to take them than if we asked them first.
It is this positive attitude that must be present in every good leader. You must assume that your followers want the best for their future and the company’s. You must also assume that the workers will do everything in their power to reach that goal of excellence. Will there occasionally be those who do not have the company’s best interest at heart? Of course. But those with a positive outlook and good motives will far outweigh the others.
Throughout my life, I have had many opportunities to be placed in a position of leadership: in my current position with data and website management, my former position as a technology leader, positions in my former school as a team leader (two years as the arts team leader and one as the math team leader), leadership positions in the classroom as a teacher, several leadership positions in my church, leadership potions in the theatre company I ran, leadership positions in other theatrical production, etc. In all of those leadership positions, as well as through reading a lot about leadership techniques both from books and online, I’ve learned a great deal about how to lead people.
One of the greatest things I have learned is that a leader doesn’t have to be (and, in fact, probably won’t be) all-knowing all of the time. In every position, I learn things as I go. An important trait is to accept that some people will have information that 1) you didn’t know they had and 2) that you wish you had. This is a major aspect that sets true leaders apart from managers. People who are managers, believe that all of the information should come through them and, only with the information that they see fit, they will disseminate it to their subordinates. Leaders, on the other hand, not only know that some information will come from their subordinates, they accept and even encourage it. For true leaders, information exchange goes both ways through very large, accommodating pipes. In this global age of information, anyone at any level can contribute in a way that can move a company, group or team forward.