What is it about the New Year that causes us all to feel obligated to ‘resolve’ to be better that somehow escapes us on the other 364 days of the year? The reality is that the New Year is just another day that ends in ‘y.’ Yet, somehow the flipping of the calendar to a New Year lights some sort of beacon summoning home the Prodigal Son. So we will all spend a few weeks making quasi-earnest attempts to eat better, exercise more, communicate better, etc. only to fall back into our pathetic abyss where we once again flog ourselves for not being better than we are. So I will take advantage of this time of year when we might actually be compelled to do something to tangibly be better leaders.
Good leaders are patient and prepared and earn the deference that make them effective and productive leaders. Bad leaders demand and feel entitled to be respected and followed by others just by nature of their title. Good leaders take responsibility. Bad leaders place blame. So in the New Year, can we work on being honest about our shortcomings and actually be better? What Kind of CEO Are You?
Effective management is earned in the workplace through time and a consistently proven track record of success and perceived justice. People are very often insecure and ego driven, thus, they place a premium on being liked over getting business results. This thwarts constructive efforts that build value in the company. A good leader will ALWAYS put the company’s NEEDS above anyone’s individual WANTS…including their own want to be liked.
If any leader or manager has to resort to, “Just do the work because I said so,” this is the leader’s failure in understanding and appropriately aligning employee incentives and mentoring of the staff that is there to support management’s efforts. Providing the illusion of leadership through fear and forced dominance does NOT build value. In fact, it does just the opposite. Leadership through fear or force generates an unproductive and frustrated work force. If you resemble that remark then shame on you!
Effective leadership is a more challenging skill that needs to be patiently, diligently, and painstakingly earned over time through intellect, empathy, security of one’s position, work style, etc., but mostly through consistency in process and demonstrative results. It is imperative to clearly demonstrate dependable, constructive, and valuable outcomes. Leadership is a thinking person’s position. Narcissists need not apply, but sadly, are too often are found at the helm.
As leaders and managers we do need to be better. We need to embrace who we truly are so that we walk into a room prepared to lead. Most every leader walks into any room with at least one strike, if not multiple strikes against them already. I know that I have at least two. Whether that strike is gender, race, or even something as seemingly innocuous as stature. (Yes, data has proven that diminutive height is negatively judged in the workplace.) We must recognize that today, just like people eat with their eyes first, so do they judge people. Most traditional prejudices and perceptions aren’t going to change until many of the current leaders retire and/or die off. Then, eventually, traditional prejudice such as race and gender will wane. But it isn’t going to happen over night, and there will always be something that bothers someone that you might not even be aware of, let alone influence or hope to control. So know that at some level, we all walk into a room exposed on some level. However, if we can be more thoughtful about how to appropriately align incentives, put our insecurities and their manifestations aside, and ‘be better,’ we may just earn the deference to begin to be an effective leader.
So resolve and challenge yourself to be better this year. However, unlike your diets and new work out regimens that you swear you are going to stick to yet are almost certain to abandon in a few days, weeks, or months, being a better leader will take a genuine and continuous commitment every day on the calendar. Leadership is hard. We should all resolve to be better.