Leadership Tricks?

I received an email a few days ago offering me free enrollment in a new webinar that promised to share all the latest leadership “tricks and secrets.” It said these tricks and secrets would allow you to get someone to do pretty much anything you wanted them to do, whether they wanted to or not. 

The one thing I can say for sure about the webinar is that it was priced right. There was no cost which was only fair because I’m pretty certain there would be no value either.

Leadership is a serious undertaking. It is not a game. There are no tricks to rig the system or manipulate people, in fact, manipulating people is just the opposite of leading them. Leadership involves caring enough about people that you actually want to help them succeed, however it is that they want to succeed. 

Leadership is not making people do what you want them to do, leadership is about helping them see they right thing to do and then encouraging them to do it. Authentic leaders don’t force people to drink, they help make them thirsty enough to drink on their own. Authentic leaders don’t decide what’s best for their people, they help their people make good decisions for themselves.

Great leaders get people to do great things, not through manipulation but through integrity based influence. They get people to do the right thing for the right reason.

Don’t waste time and maybe even money looking for leadership tricks or secrets. Instead develop a true caring attitude for the people you lead and then demonstrate that caring in everything you say and do. Caring is one absolute ingredient to success as a leader and the fact that it’s a secret to so many is a mystery to me. 

 

The Caring Leader

Many leadership gurus and experts say that in order to truly lead people you must care about them. While I would never claim the mantle of leadership expert or guru I would certainly agree that caring for people is an essential quality of leadership. 

You either care about people or you don’t. There is no in between. You don’t have to like someone personally to care about them, it certainly is easier but for an Authentic Servant Leader “liking” someone is not required to care about them.

You can’t really teach someone to care but you can help them see value in other people and seeing value in someone is where caring begins. I’m not talking about “value” in terms of what they can do for you, the value I’m taking about is the value that a human being brings to the table just by being themselves. 

A great measure of authenticity in a leader is how they treat people who can absolutely nothing for them. If they are still willing to help, support and guide that individual when they know there will be no personal return on that time investment then it’s highly likely they actually care about other people. 

An early step on the road to becoming an Authentic Servant Leader is to understand that every person has value, even the ones who are different than you and even the ones who hide their value deep inside. If your prerequisite for caring about someone is that they think and act just like you then you may be a boss but you are most certainly not an Authentic Servant Leader. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand the value of diverse opinions and thoughts and they work to learn from people different than themselves. If you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded people then you will struggle to grow as a leader. It is by allowing other people to be who they are that you become a better person and a better leader.

Your leadership is about the people you lead, it is not about you. People will not truly follow you until they know that you truly care about them and if they don’t follow then you cannot lead. It’s a pretty simple equation. 

The challenge for Authentic Servant Leaders is not just caring for people that they don’t like, the ultimate challenge is caring for people they actually dislike. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better.” 

Do you have the courage of Lincoln to invest time with those you truly dislike in order to discover the unique value they bring into the world? If you do then you will create the opportunity for yourself to really care about them. 

It’s truly a challenge to care for someone you would rather avoid when you see them coming down the hall. It’s a challenge that Authentic Servant Leaders are willing to accept.

Are you willing to accept it? 

Leading With Care

One of the most absolute truths of leadership I know is this: you can care about someone without leading them but you cannot truly lead someone without caring for them. 

That being the case, the first step in learning to lead is learning that it is not a weakness to show that you care. It is in fact a tremendous strength that all truly Authentic Servant Leaders possess. 

The second step is to care. Really, really care. Really caring about the person or people you would lead. Truly caring about them means caring more about what you can do for them than what they can do for you or your organization.

If you’re expecting your people to care more about your organization or it’s customers than you care about them then you’re expecting too much. People won’t care for your customers because you pay them to, they will however care about your customers when they feel cared about themselves.

At it’s core leadership is about people. You must understand that you don’t really lead an organization, you lead the people who put the “organize” in organization. If you forget that, even for a moment, then you are likely to start treating your people like the machines that do your copying and computing. 

When your people are just another piece of your organization’s capital then you’re likely trying to manage your people and not lead them. But your people are not capital, they are human beings. They have the same kinds of struggles, challenges, hopes and dreams going on in their lives as you do. The reason I so dislike the term “human capital” is that it causes leaders to forget that they are leading real live human beings.

Caring for your people must be more then a thought, it must be an action. You know (and so do your people) that you truly care about your people when their success means as much to you as your own. 

When you’re willing to sacrifice some of your own freedoms, some of your own recognition and maybe even some of your own success to help others succeed then you’re not just occupying a leadership position, you’re truly an Authentic Servant Leader. 

Every single person that you have the opportunity to lead is unique and special. They matter and they can make a difference for your organization. It’s up to you as a leader to find their strengths and help them to develop and use them.

When they see you doing that that will also see you caring about them as people. They will know that they not only matter but that they matter to you.

The question is do you have the courage to actually show that you care? If you do then you likely will earn that lofty level of leadership. 

To get there you must always remember, don’t just lead, lead with care!

Leadership for the Ages – Part Three of Some

In my last post we looked at the leadership you’ll find from the “Dad’s” generation. In this third of what’s likely to be a five post series we’ll look at the group best known as the “Baby Boomers” or as I call them “The Middles.” This is the group born between 1946 and 1964, I was born right in the middle of those years, hence the name “middles.”

This generation, my generation, was the first to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life.  The “Middles” generally distrust authority and large “systems.” Our values were shaped by the civil rights movement, Viet Nam, and for a time, run away inflation. We are mostly more optimistic and willing to change than “Dad’s” generation.

We’re also known to some however as the “Me Generation” and that moniker is probably well deserved. If the “Dad’s” invented Minute Rice then it was the “Middles” who decided that a minute was way too long a time to wait for rice, or nearly anything else for that matter. We do tend to want everything NOW. That need for instant gratification can sometimes show up as a sense of entitlement. It is never good for someone in a leadership position to have any kind of sense of entitlement, it tends to send followers running for the door. 

My generation, “The Middles” have had their retirement plans changed, not really changed, more like ripped from them. The dot.com slaughter and the Great Recession have caused many of my generation to consider when and even if they will retire. 63% now say they will work at least part-time in retirement to replace lost savings. 

That can make a person a bit bitter and a bitter leader is a bad leader. A very bad leader. 

My generation embraced the value of having to sacrifice to get ahead. All that sacrifice makes us very loyal to one another. We’ve seemingly always understood the value of a solid effort and have had no issue with working to earn everything we receive. 

All of this has shaped our values into what they are. I believe “The Middles” are a great generation in their own way. But too many leaders from my generation also believe that “our way” is the only way and that can make it very difficult to lead. 

Authentic Servant Leaders to not apply their values and their value system to those they lead. To be an effective leader in 2014 you must lead people according to their value system, not yours. 

Leading others according to their values is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader, it is a sign of caring and intelligence. 

Let’s say that you have a team member, someone you lead, from the “Changers” or “Kids” generation, and their work hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm. Each day you watch them turn off their lights and pack-up to head home at 5:00pm. Their work for the day is done, no big projects due or deadlines approaching but you question their loyalty and work ethic anyway. 

Your question doesn’t stem from their lack of performance, it stems from you applying your values to them. Remember, for us “middles” “work” is a place to go, for “Changers” and “Kids” it is something they do. 

The “problem” here really lays with the leader, not the follower. 

Authentic Servant Leaders seek first to understand and know their people. They know they can’t truly lead a person until they know the person they are leading. 

On another note, to my fellow “Middles,” maybe we can learn something from the “Changers” and “Kids,” go home and see what you’re missing. These youngsters just might be on to something. We’ll find out in the next post of this series!

Leadership for the Ages – Part One

The two most popular “theories” or “methods” or whatever you want to call them, of leadership are: treat everyone you lead the same or treat everyone you lead differently because everyone you lead is unique.

I subscribe to neither of them. Here’s mine: Treat everyone you lead the same, just do it differently. I believe that’s the most effective way to lead because people are mostly the same. They always have been and history shows us that there is no reason to think that will ever change. 

We all have the same basic needs and wants. The mere fact that we’re all human dictates that simple truth. While we all have much in common however we all also have things about us that make us different from every other person on earth. I am unique and so are you and you and you. So is everyone else. 

Some folks in leadership positions seem to miss that fact, or at least part of it. They understand that as a leader “they” are different. They know that it’s those differences that set them apart from other people and make them a leader. Then, at the same time, they lead their people as if their people were just like them. 

They assume their people are motivated by many of the same things they are. They lead as if their people have the same life experiences as the they do. They lead their people the way they, the leader, want to be led. 

That’s pure leadership folly!

In this series of posts I’ve titled Leadership for the Ages we’ll look at the differences in people related to their generations. I’ll write with broad strokes here with the full understanding that even within generations the differences abound. 

In this post however let’s look at what all generations have in common. 

They expect honesty from their leaders. They want… it’s actually more than want, they need to be able to trust their leaders. People of every generation have always needed a leader they could trust and they have always known that leadership has little to do with a title or position.

They know that leadership, actual, authentic, servant leadership has to do with caring for and about people. Regardless of a person’s age, background, motivation, or goals, they don’t care what a leader knows until they know that the leader cares. About them!

People will commit to a leader who cares about them, they will follow, they will go the extra mile. They follow leaders they trust to look out for their people’s interest. Without integrity there is no trust and without trust there is no leadership. That’s true for all generations and all cultures. 

Everyone has that in common.

In the next post we’ll begin looking at the differences in the generations and how those differences affect both leaders and followers. 

Can a Leader Care Too Much?

The title to this post comes from a question I was asked after my last post. The quick answer is NO, a leader can’t care too much.

The complete answer is a whole lot longer and far more complicated. I don’t believe that an authentic leader can care too much, they can’t “over care” and it’s wrong to suggest that it’s not possible to excel as a leader when you “care too much.” 

Now, here’s where it gets complicated. While you can’t care too much. caring a lot can cause an inexperienced leader to underperform. They use caring to substitute for coaching and accountability. They can have the mistaken belief that they can’t both care about and confront or coach a team member at the same time. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. I have been fortunate to work for some very caring people. One was perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met. There was never a doubt that he cared about his people. He said it and he showed it often. Absolutely 100% of his coaching comments were positive, in several years of working for him there was never any corrective action or changes suggested. 

I wish I could tell you I was that good, I was not. His caring personality got in the way of true leading. He allowed me to drift and develop some poor habits. While I was comfortable and enjoyed working for him, I didn’t grow.  

My experience with this leader is not uncommon. Lots of people work for a leader they would describe as “the nicest person” or as a person “who really cares”. That’s great but as important as caring is, caring alone does not make you a leader. 

To be an authentic leader you must use your caring nature to coach, motivate and nurture your people. Sometimes that will mean having a difficult conversation with them. Which leads me to the second example.

Many of you know that for several years I worked with the Dale Carnegie organization. The person I reported to cared about me as a person, I never doubted that. He also held me accountable and coached the heck out of me. He used nearly every principle from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to do it in a way that motivated me to improve. 

I was motivated to improve because it was the right thing to do but more than that, I was motivated to improve “for” that leader because I knew his coaching came with my best interests in mind. 

Good leaders care enough to show it and great leaders care enough to show it and make the extra effort to coach anyway. It will take a bit more effort to confront and coach in a compassionate way so that your caring nature is not lost in the process. 

Authentic leaders know that the very best way to show you care is to help your people succeed. 

Make no mistake about this: caring is no substitute for accountability and coaching. If you care so much for people that you just can’t hold them accountable and help them reach their full potential then you might be a great person but you’re probably not a great leader.

Care AND coach to make a difference that lasts! 

When Leaders Care

When leaders don’t care then leaders don’t lead. They may well possess a leadership title or position but they don’t truly lead. They simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

Let me repeat that for you, they simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

They can manage, they can organize, they can plan, and they can have success, even great success, but they cannot lead. 

In many businesses today “caring,” especially caring about people, is sadly considered a weakness. It is in fact, anything but a weakness. Caring about people informs every major decision an authentic leader makes. It may make some decisions more challenging and add to the time it takes to come to a decision but it will almost certainly result in a better decision. 

Authentic leaders understand that you manage stuff, budgets, a process, buildings, contracts, and the like. They also understand that people won’t and really can’t be managed. They know that people must have a leader, not a manager, in order to achieve their full potential. 

Authentic leaders also understand that no one cares what they know until they know that they care. People must know that their leader cares more about them as a person than they care about any policy or HR manual or task. 

Authentic leaders know that you don’t have to sacrifice a single drop of profit or success in order to care about people. They willingly accept the added challenge of “serving” their people while meeting all the other requirements of leadership. 

Great progress is made when a leader cares about their people.

Authentic leaders have far fewer “people challenges” because their people are committed and not merely compliant. They are committed to the leader and will go above and beyond for them, often, very often, doing more than is technically required of them. 

Authentic leaders know that no business grows unless the people who make up the business grow first.

People like to grow, they like to be meaningfully challenged. Managers try to control people, leaders challenge and grow them. If you care enough about your people to compassionately challenge them to reach their full potential they will see you as an authentic leader. They will follow you anywhere. They will contribute to your success and the success of your organization.

Your success as a leader is judged by what your people do today but your legacy as a leader will be determined by how your people do when you’re not there to lead them anymore.

Do you care enough about them to invest yourself in them so that they continue to thrive in your absence? If you do then you may just have a chance to truly be of that rare breed… an authentic leader.