Responsible Leadership

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that leading people is a privilege that must be earned. They also understand that being a leader doesn’t, or shouldn’t, come with privileges that are not available to the people they lead.

I attended a military high school and I was quickly taught that “rank has its privileges.” As I advanced through the ranks I would occasionally take advantage of my rank by doing something that a kid with a lower rank couldn’t do. If they called me on it I’d reply in the way I had been taught: by saying, usually in a dismissive tone, “RHIP.” 

RHIP stood for Rank has it’s Privileges.

I believed that for a long time. I eventually learned how truly wrong that philosophy was, I discovered that every time I pulled that RHIP stuff I separated myself from the people I was supposed to be leading. The fact is that what rank really has is it’s responsibilities. A person with rank or as it is called in the civilian world, a person in a leadership position, has certain responsibilities to the people they lead.

Chief among those responsibilities is not separating themselves from the people they would lead. Few people in leadership positions intentionally build a wall between themselves and their people but intentional or not, many times walls do exist.

The walls are built by leaders when they apply a different set of rules to themselves than they apply to their people. As a leader the same rules must apply to everyone, including you. I know it is easy to feel that you “have earned the right” to have a little more flexibility but the truth is what you have earned the right to do is model successful behavior and habits for your people. 

Being an example of success in a daily responsibility for Authentic Servant Leaders.

Sometimes leaders provide themselves with “perks” which are not available to their people. I don’t so much have a problem with “perks” as I have with how they are “shown” to the people that don’t have access to them. The reality is that in all likelihood people in leadership positions have earned those positions by in some way outperforming the people they lead. They often worked harder and longer and they most certainly should be rewarded for it. “Perks” are a type of reward for their efforts. 

Where I personally have a problem with perks is when a person in a leadership position uses them to separate themselves from their people. They separate themselves by throwing their perks in the faces of the people who haven’t yet earned them. They brag, they show off, and in some cases they even taunt the people they rely on for their continued success. That is simply lazy and irresponsible leadership. 

If you believe that it is “lonely at the top” then you very well may have built some walls between you and your people. If you’ve hired good people then you’re missing out on a whole lot of meaningful interactions that could make your role as a leader much easier, and your organization much more successful. 

So tear down those walls. 

Here’s one idea how you might do that. Each day, every day, not when you find the time, not on “slow days,” not when you’re bored, but every single day get out of your office and conduct a brief “innerview” with at least one of your people. This isn’t an interview like you had when you hired them. This is an opportunity to get an “inner” view of them as people, as valued, informed team members. Ask them how they are doing, ask about their goals and objectives, ask how you can help them achieve their goals. Ask about how the business is doing, ask how the business is doing for them. Ask for an idea how the business could do better.

One of the biggest expenses a business can have these days is employees who are not engaged, who are giving less than a full effort. If you want engaged employees then build the kind of relationships with them that will keep them engaged.

Get to know your people, you have likely described them at least once as your organization’s greatest asset, don’t just say that, show it. Make an “innerview” a priority everyday and everyday your people will know just how important you really think they are. 

3 thoughts on “Responsible Leadership

  1. Good post Steve.

    RHIP.

    Like you, I also believed the same thing when I joined the military right out of high school. Having not had any experience with a true leader growing up, it was easy for me to believe and accept that RHIP was leadership. If we worked hard enough and jumped through the correct hoops, eventually we would reach the pearly gates of leadership and suddenly be ushered in to the land of privilege.

    Perhaps it works that way for some…may even many! However, I learned over time and after encountering a few decent leaders here and there in different industries that youbdisnt have to lose yiir humanity once yii became a leader. I learned that what set the true leaders apart from the RHIP leaders was largely in part to a strong internal moral ethic and integrity. Their leadership stemmed from who they were and in genuine service to other people. And they were the ones tjat treated people well, regardless of rank or status.

    Those that relied on RHIP philosophy sat back on their laurels and didnt feel like they needed to treat anyone with respect. They sure did want it and demand it for themselves though!

    Thanks for sharing Steve!

    • Thanks Samantha, you post made me consider some long term RHIP “leaders” I’ve known… As I considered them it dawned on me that if you don’t grow out of that thinking you begin to think that basic ethics don’t apply to you either.

      You don’t just have a different set of rules, you actually have no rules at all. Those types may think they are great leaders but they actually aren’t leading at all.

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