Or to put it another way, “would you follow you?” If you are looking for a guideline or plumb line or guiding principle in leading others, this one is a pretty good one to follow. And by comparison, any sort of deviation from it will point out your flaws, weaknesses, quirks, shadow side or otherwise the growth areas of your leadership words and behaviors.
For example let’s look at the positive side. If I were to define the kind of leader I’d want to work with I’d want someone who explained the cause or end goal and why it mattered (mission and vision), why I would be a valuable part of the team and what my role would be. I’d want him or her to keep in touch with me and ask me how it was going in a way that was supportive and not looking to cut me off at the knees. They would be there when it was needed to give me the information and resources to get the job done. They would keep me in the loop regarding how things might be shifting or altered that would impact not only my part but the whole project and work in general. I wouldn’t want to be babied but if I messed up I’d want them to work it through with me and even give me the hard news if I needed to be corrected or even pulled off the project because I wasn’t doing what was needed. Be the leader! Deliver the bad news. I get it! They would have to communicate to me with integrity and not say one thing and do another. If I did a good job I wouldn't have to be recognized publicly but just a wink or a pat on the back that said they noticed would be all I’d need. They would believe in me and see where I needed to grow or could grow into my potential and they would help me get there. If they were consistent in these behaviors, over time I’d run through a wall for them. This person is rare indeed.
Do unto others. So how would you define the leader you’d want? Are you even coming close to your own standards? Easier said than done.
On the negative side there are all the flaws of leadership that would really irk me if it happened or didn’t happen. These are the ways a leader’s behavior differed from the above positive description. They just want you to do your work and don’t tell you about the overall work or how you fit in. “Just do your job” is there mindset. They’d either hover over me like a helicopter not trusting me, just waiting for me to mess up or they would be an absentee leader, never around and so hands off that it seems they just don’t care. Then they never seemed to be available to make my work a success because I’d have to beg and search and scream for resources or help. It would be a challenge for me to even check in to see if I was on the right track. Then when they did check in with me it would be to say that what I had been doing for the last three weeks was wrong or wasn’t going to be used because things have changed (What! And you didn’t tell me! I’ve been wasting my time!) Then if I did a good job they would take the credit or not notice. They would say one thing and do another. If I messed up they’d “make an example of me” and embarrass me in front of everyone. I'd get really tired of this person and would start looking for a way to "quit my boss."
You get the idea. So how can this help me be a better leader? Think this question first before you speak or act: "How would I want to be treated?" Then speak and act according to what you conclude. That’s the tough part. Because it means you may need some courage to deliver the hard word or action. It may mean getting involved in a mess when you would sooner ignore it. It may mean putting your own work aside and investing your time in keeping in touch and asking how things are going and how can you help. It takes effort and intentionality and love. Yes I said it. It takes love.
So where do you need to start? What do you need to add or subtract to your leadership words and behaviors? How can you truly love your people as their leader?
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"