Leadership Is Personal
Leadership is personal. To think otherwise is to deny the very fabric of who we are as humans. People bring their own styles, cultures, morals, beliefs, ethics, and norms into the workplace, making one-size-fits-all leadership impossible. Your relationships with those you lead and their relationship with you are guided and influenced by these powerful drivers and sometimes illogical emotions.
The primary reason why so many leaders fail at leadership is that they are unwilling to accept that leadership is, and always will be, about human relationships. They wrongly believe that just because they have the word manager printed on a business card or their name is on some company org chart, it is enough. Even though your title, business card, or position on your company’s org chart may declare, “I am the boss of you,” leadership begins when people choose to FOLLOW YOU for their reasons, not yours.
Leadership Principle #1
You Need Your People More than They Need You
When you get your next paycheck, take a close look at it. The money that was deposited in your bank account was a direct result of the work your people did. You were rewarded for their performance or nonperformance—not yours. To tell yourself anything different is an outright denial of the facts
As a leader, if your team succeeds, you succeed. If your team fails, you fail. So it follows that your job is to help your people succeed. Through leading, managing, and coaching you must create an environment in which they can develop their skills, leverage their talents, and win. You must remove roadblocks so that they can get the job done. You need them more than they need you. Anything that you do that impedes their success hurts you!
The single most important leadership principle is this: You get paid for what your people do, not what you do. You need your people more than they need you.
Leadership Principle #2
Follow the Golden Rule
Countless leaders complain about the way they are treated by their boss and then treat their own people the same or worse.
If you want people to follow you, treat them in a way that will cause them to want to follow you. The good news is you don’t need an MBA from a top university or to spend a week in a leadership training course to figure out how to treat your people. All you need to do is look inside yourself and consider how you want to be treated by your boss.
Leadership Principle #3
You Are Always on Stage
Because you are the boss, your people watch and analyze your every move—looking for meaning and clues to what you are thinking. What is most important to understand is that your people place meaning on your behaviors based on their own unique perspective.
Everything you say or don’t say, do or don’t do, your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language can and will have an impact on your people (and potentially your entire organization). Your words and actions have meaning, and the higher your level on the org chart the more a misspoken word, display of raw emotion, or slip of the tongue can hurt you and your people.
Leadership Principle #4
People Don’t Do Dumb Things on Purpose
Mediocre managers believe that people do dumb things on purpose. These managers shake their heads, throw their hands up, and blame their people.
Effective leaders assume positive intent. In other words they recognize the person thought they were doing the right thing. They know that when someone is doing the wrong thing there is a reason and it is in their best interest (because they get paid for what their people do) to investigate why the person is doing something that seems illogical. Then they uncover and remove the root cause.
Leadership Principle #5
People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours
Each year, companies spend billions of dollars on compensation strategies and award and incentive programs to motivate employees to change their behaviors. Across the globe leaders give inspirational speeches, threaten to discipline or fire, and use myriad tactics to get employees to do what they are supposed to do. Yet these leaders remained baffled when some people choose to go in another direction.
People choose to do things for their reasons, not yours—no matter how much you scream and yell, plead your case, or implore people to do the right thing. Unless they see that it is in their best interest to do that thing, they probably won’t. The most effective leaders take time to connect with their people and help them see why it is in their best interest to follow certain paths.
Leadership Principle #6
Change Behaviors, Not Beliefs or Styles
People are different, and as the workplace becomes more and more diverse, the variations in beliefs, personality styles, and cultural backgrounds are becoming more profound. Dealing with these differences is a challenge for leaders everywhere. It is human nature to want other people to be like you
Effective leaders have the discipline to focus on managing and coaching the behaviors that impact the workplace while withholding judgment or attempting to change people. They know that it is only possible to change behaviors, not people.
Leadership Principle #7
You Are Not Normal
Perhaps the most common mistake leaders make is trying to manage people in the same manner they manage themselves. It rarely works. The truth is, as a leader, you are not normal.
If you have been promoted into a leadership position it is likely this happened because you are talented, smart, goal-oriented, ambitious, and driven to achieve. You hold yourself to a higher standard than other people. You are willing to work harder and longer hours, and willing to do anything it takes to climb to the top of the ladder. You have to sacrifice many things in order to get and stay where you are.
You may think that those you lead are all just as driven as you are, but they are not—because they are normal. They do what normal people do. They work regular hours. They leave work and coach Little League and spend time with their families. They are happy where they are and have little ambition to make the same sacrifices as you.
People are more willing to follow you when you interact with them based on who they are, not who you are. The most effective leaders are masters at this. They are keenly self-aware of their style, values, and beliefs, and they are confident enough to adjust their style to deal with normal people.