Leadership is the process of influencing others to do what needs to be done by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. I think that clear guidance is the key to success because people perform better when they know what they are doing and why – basically when they feel a sense of purpose. If you feel like you are contributing to the greater good and you understand your specific role and feel valued, you’re probably going to perform with a much higher level of commitment and enthusiasm and authenticity.
Leaders who empower their subordinates not only create healthy work environments where people come to work and feel good about what they do, but they also open up the lines of communication. I think that a good indicator of whether or not a leader is effective is if his or her subordinates feel comfortable enough to discuss issues they may be experiencing – both professionally and personally. Ultimately, they can work together and handle the ups and downs associated with any long-term meaningful relationship.
Oppositionality is part of human nature. It almost seems as if we are hard-wired to push back when pressure is applied. Nobody likes to be told what to do, nobody likes to be micromanaged and nobody likes to be “sold” on things – but people like to have their problems solved. People appreciate clear guidance and instructions that make sense.
If you were experiencing an issue with something and you willingly asked for help and someone provided a viable solution to help you rectify the situation, you would more than likely be thankful. You would more than likely trust that person and consider him or her (or the company that he or she represents) as a go-to resource if the same type of problem arises in the future. You may even refer your friends when they experience similar circumstances.
Adults like to have information that is relevant and useful, stuff that helps them improve their job performance or helps improve something in their personal lives or even both as the two are, in a lot of ways, closely intertwined. Between personal life and professional life, things that happen on one side usually effects things that happen on the other. It is well known that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone, and effective leaders are those who can find ways to relate and put things into perspective rather than just barking orders.
I think if we were to trace the timeline of human interaction even further back, we’ll find that it all comes down to another very often times overlooked, simple yet crucial element to the human relation experience: trust. I think that trust is overlooked in a lot of cases because people just assume it and take it for granted. Often times, in a lot of cases anyway, trust is even in place by default.
Think about the example of you having a problem and asking for help with it. All someone really has to do in this situation is not compromise your trust and as long as he or she offers a viable solution that makes sense, you should be in agreement about whatever that may be. Even though that sounds ideal, I’ve seen lots and lots of cases where the solution makes sense but the deal or plan goes sideways because of the compromised trust factor. I’m sure you have, too.
Consider an employee at work and how, by virtue of rank and position, by default, that person should be able to trust his or her supervisor. We all know how that goes sometimes, though. A lot of employees in a lot of different work places, for various reasons, have lost trust in their supervisors.
I think that often times, that is something that happens because people tend to skip over things that are necessary, crucial elements to meaningful relationship building. Consider any meaningful relationship you’ve had in real life, no matter if work or personal. Most people tend to not have very much success in walking up to another person and saying: “Hi there … would you like to get married?” It just doesn’t work in most cases. When dealing with my children, I personally never resort to: “Because I said so” as I think that is weak and really an abuse of power.
Think about supervisors you’ve had in the past who were just not present, either physically or even mentally. Proximal abandonment is a clinical term used for parents who are physically present but emotionally unavailable for their children. It happens, we all know it, and it happens in workplaces, too. Think about supervisors who are late to work, who call in sick when they’re not sick, ones who disappear for two hours at lunch time and micromanage their teams to plus / minus ten minutes at the end of the week.
Think about supervisors you’ve had in the past who do nothing but coach to numbers, or should I say manage to numbers; supervisors who haven’t actually done the job for years who more than likely have forgotten what it’s like. In most workplaces, how things are now aren’t exactly how things were last year, or two years ago. Or ten years ago.
Now, think about supervisors who you trusted. More than likely, even if you were at different jobs or even different industries, shoot – you can even think about teachers in school who you trusted more than others – what are some of the common characteristics that they shared?
In most cases, they probably cared. They took an active interest in you and took the time to get to know you. They took time to listen. They had patience. They were emotionally available. They were approachable. They were inclusive. And, in most cases, they led by example. Wait a minute – I need to expound upon that last point.
I think that leaders lead by example no matter what. What I mean by that is subordinates will emulate and mirror the types of behaviors their leaders exhibit, and that goes for both good behaviors and bad behaviors. To drive this point home even further, think about a parent who tells his or her children to keep their rooms clean but meanwhile, the parent’s bedroom is a wreck. Some would call that hypocritical. Meanwhile, I can assure you that my room is by no means perfect, but if my daughters were to step into my room, they’ll see that my bed is made daily and the bathroom is wiped down regularly, which, I feel, is not too much to ask.