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.’ In this year’s case, that day is just Sunday. 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 be better only to fall back into our pathetic abyss where we once again flog ourselves for not being better than we are.
Those of you who listen to the show and/or read my commentary, I am constantly begging all of us to ‘be better.’ So I will take advantage of this time of year when you might actually be compelled to do something to tangibly ‘be better.’ So let’s pick up where we left off when I asked you to be a benevolent dictator and to “be smart, be prepared, and be patient.”
One of the notable differences between a good leader and a bad one is whether or not that leader has earned the deference that is so pivotal in effective and productive leadership or if they are just demanding it. This is where patience and preparation really come into play. The crappy leaders feel they are somehow owed or entitled to the respect they need to be productive in building long term value in their organization just by nature of their title. The excellent leaders will be smart enough and prepared enough to know that their efficacy as leaders will come from consistent and demonstrative efforts of successful processes and reliable outcomes.
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 may place a premium on being liked over earning pivotal respect. This often strongly and negatively correlates with constructive efforts for the benefit of the needs of the company, and often prioritizes the individual’s wants for security and validation that comes at the detrimental expense of company value achievement. The benevolent dictator will ALWAYS put the company’s NEEDS above anyone’s individual WANTS…including their own. While not consciously, many leaders in their efforts to command respect actually thwart those efforts by demanding it in lieu of genuinely earning the deference owed.
If any leader or manager has to resort to, “Just do the work because I said so,” this is the leader’s failure (and likely laziness) in understanding and appropriately aligning employee incentives and mentoring of the staff that is there to support the management efforts. Providing the illusion of leadership through fear and forced dominance does not bring efficacy. 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 for being so pathetic and substandard. How do you still have a job?
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 outcomes and prioritize the company’s needs over anyone’s individual wants. Leadership is a thinking person’s position. Narcissists need not apply.
All too often, leadership is erroneously made analogous to and compared with a partnership and/or marriage. This is a fine analogy in regards to contemplation of a business transaction, but let’s not confuse a transaction evaluation with the much larger role of company leadership. A partnership is about democracy and consensus, which may be an optimal structure for a committed, personal relationship, however, this is generally a counter indicated structure for a company hierarchy, which absolutely necessitates a benevolent dictator.
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 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. 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 into 2017, being a successful and benevolent dictator will take a genuine and continuous commitment to be smarter, more prepared, and reasonably patient every day on the calendar.