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The Time to Lead

Leading people is not easy. Especially when compared to managing things. There are management processes and standard work practices. Both are predictable, you do certain things, you get a known outcome as a result. 

But people can’t be managed, they must be led. When leading people there are few predictable outcomes. People will always surprise you. We can’t know for certain how people will react in various circumstances until we see them react. Just because they acted in a particular way does not guarantee they will act the same way when they are in similar circumstances. 

That can make leading people a significant challenge. It can also make leading people very rewarding. Authentic Leadership helps people grow and develop. It frequently helps ordinary people achieve extraordinary results. It turns followers into leaders. 

The challenge of actually leading people is what causes many people in leadership positions to attempt to manage their people. Attempting to manage people causes an entire host of problems. In fact most of the personnel “problems” that an HR department deals with are a result of a person being managed rather than led. 

The employee may be labeled a “problem employee” when in reality it could well be a leadership issue. 

People in leadership positions who don’t actually lead quickly become frustrated with their people. They don’t understand why people won’t respond in predictable patterns. They give the same direction to 5 different people and they get 5 different results. They are also unlikely to understand their own role in the 5 different results. 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re struggling with the performance of your people you first have to consider your role in their performance. You need to accept the fact that their performance is at least partly related to your effectiveness in leading them. If you have someone in your organization who is underperforming then there are two possible “root causes.” One, you hired the wrong person or you put them in the wrong role. Two, you are not providing them with the skills and tools they need to succeed. Either way, you must own that. 

You must also consider how you “see” your people. Are your people an expense or an investment. When you are attempting to coach an underperforming team member do you think “I’m going to have to SPEND time ON that person to get them up to speed.” Or do you think to yourself, “I have an opportunity to INVEST time WITH that person to help them reach the potential I see in them.” 

The difference in that mindset will shape every conversation with your team. Your people will pick up on that attitude and they will respond accordingly. If you believe your people are a problem then I can almost guarantee you that your people will be a problem. 

Leading people, Authentically Leading them, will take an investment of time. Often a substantial investment. If you don’t have the time to truly lead then you are doing your people and your organization a disservice by occupying a leadership position. You may want to stick with managing things because it could be that people just aren’t for you. 

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