People Leadership

Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. No one can lead a company, they can only lead the people who make up the company. There are no “team leaders,” there are only leaders who lead the people on the team. 

Stuff, businesses, buildings and budgets need to be managed, people need to be led.

That’s why interpersonal skills are so critical for effective leadership. If you cannot relate to the people you’re leading then you won’t be leading them for long. Effective leaders know that communication is vital when attempting to relate to others. That’s why their efforts to improve their communication skills is never ending. 

Many people occupy leadership positions but it seems these days as if fewer and fewer of them actually attempt to truly lead. They issue edicts and write policies without so much as a thought of how it may impact the people they supposedly lead. 

Whether intentional or not the actions they take and the statements they make build barriers between them and the people they need to grow their organizations. 

Effective Authentic Leaders don’t merely occupy a leadership position, they actually lead. They build bridges between themselves and their people. They use their interpersonal skills to break through barriers. Once the barriers are down their excellent communication skills come into play. The seek first to understand the people they lead. They talk with them, not to them. They listen twice as much as they talk. They listen with more than their ears, they listen with their heart as well. 

Edicts and policies attempt to force the compliance of people. Interpersonal skills combined with thoughtful communication build the willing commitment of people. 

What amazes me most is how many people in leadership positions don’t even like the people they should be leading. They often refer to them with words and phrases meant to “put them in their place.” Poor leaders want the people who work for them to know that their “leader” is smarter than they will ever be. Poor leaders sentences are laced with I I I, as in I want, I will, I did this and on and on. 

Authentic Leaders not only like the people they lead, they care for them. Immensely. They refer to their people with words and phrases meant to build them up and help them see their full potential. Authentic Leaders want the people who work with them to believe they can accomplish anything, even one day surpassing the leader. Their sentences are full of words such as, we, ours, and us. You’ll seldom hear an “I” come out of their mouth. 

The next time you’re speaking with your team record what you say. Then listen to it with a critical ear. If your message is short on “we” “ours” and “us” then your people may perceive you as a person in a leadership position who doesn’t really lead…or care about them.

If that’s the case you’re costing your organization an opportunity to grow and you’re limiting the potential of the people you could be leading. You might be fine with that but if you’re not then you have work to do. 

That work will begin with a decision to change your thinking. You can reap the many rewards of actually leading people or you can suffer the unending consequences of treating your people like things. 

The choice, as always, is yours to make.

Are You Committed or Compliant?

The difference between a committed person and a compliant person is like the difference between night and day. It’s huge!

 

A committed person carries an attitude that helps them drive towards their goals. A committed individual acts with purpose for a purpose. Not only do they have goals they also have a plan to achieve them. Their commitment to themselves, the people they care about and to their organization or business shows in everything they do. 

 

Committed people look different. They act different. They speak differently than most people and they tend to brighten every room they enter. 

 

Compliant people are easy to spot too. They are doing what they are supposed to do and not much more. They live in the zone of “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. They may think they have goals but often those goals only deal with “getting through the day” or “doing what I have to do to keep the boss happy.” 

 

You know how when you’re at the grocery store and there are two check out lines to chose from. You pick one and after a few minutes you realize you picked wrong. The other line is flying and your line is barely moving. The other line likely has a committed cashier and your cashier is the compliant one. They are doing the same job, they are just doing it with very different attitudes. 

 

Think about how unhappy you are when you’re dealing with a compliant person. Then think about which cashier most closely resembles you and your attitude. 

 

Your level of commitment is directly related to your attitude. Your attitude cannot be left to chance, it must be made by choice. Failing to consciously choose a positive attitude results in the unconscious choice of a negative one. 

 

There are no neutral attitudes. If your attitude isn’t positive then it is negative. There is too much negativity around everyone to assume that positivity just happens. It does not, you MUST choose it and then work to keep it. 

 

Being that slow cashier is the likely result of failing to chose. The best news is that no one, no circumstance, no traffic, no weather report, no nothing nothing nothing, can rob you of that choice. 


So… what are you choosing today?

DOA Leadership

There are many character flaws that can make an otherwise strong leader weak. There is one flaw however which will absolutely kill the opportunity to lead; it makes a person’s leadership potential Dead on Arrival upon being promoted to a leadership position. 

That flaw, and flaw is almost too small a word to fully describe this catastrophic mistake, but that flaw is believing that you can’t be wrong simple because you occupy a position of leadership.

Believing that somehow your position makes you always right, about everything, all the time, will quickly kill the morale of what could have been your team. You will never (I know that never is an incredibly strong word but never is the correct word in this instance) be able to earn the commitment of your people, you will have to settle for their compliance. If you even get that.

Believing that your position makes you right all the time crushes the creativity of your people. They will quickly learn to keep their ideas to themselves since you’ve “led” them to understand that they can’t be right. By the way, this further increases your delusion that your position always makes you right. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that they can be wrong about almost anything, at almost any time, just like any other human on the planet. Authentic Servant Leaders value thinking different than their own and they understand that if their people are always in full agreement with them then their people aren’t really thinking at all.

Authentic Servant Leaders know that their position doesn’t make them right about everything, all their position really does is give them the opportunity to have a positive influence on their organization and it’s people.  

Authentic Servant Leaders let the best idea win, whether it was their idea or not. 

If you’re a leader who believes for even a minute that your position somehow makes you smarter than the people you try to lead then you should know that you’re not only sometimes wrong, you’re likely often dead wrong. 

Leadership potential is a terrible thing to waste, don’t let your potential be DOA!

Compliance is not Commitment

No one has every done anything that they didn’t want to do!

Almost everyone would disagree with that statement and everyone who disagrees would be wrong. Almost everyone would say they have been made to do something they didn’t want to do. It could have been by their parents, their boss, maybe a spouse (I hope not a spouse) maybe a friend or co-worker. But the fact is they didn’t really make you do something that you didn’t want to do. 

They found a way to make you want to do it.

They provided you with a choice. Either do this or something bad will happen to you. They made the “something bad” worse than the thing you would have preferred not to do. You considered your options and decided to do the thing you would have preferred not to instead of receiving the “something bad” as an alternative. 

You wouldn’t have normally “wanted” to do the thing you did but it was better than the “something bad” that was the alternative. 

That’s how compliance works. 

Limited leaders think that forcing their people to comply by using the “something bad” alternative makes them a leader. They are dead wrong!

Compliance can appear to work in the short term and it kind of does. A limited leader can have some short-term success by forcing a reasonable level of performance out of their people. But from the very beginning a compliance based leader erodes the trust and morale of their people. Compliance based leaders will always, always have “people issues” because people just aren’t made to be compliant. 

The people issues will look like attitude problems, attendance or tardiness problems, productivity problems, and general engagement issues.

When I see those issues and problems happen with more than a small percentage of an organization’s people it is unlikely that the organization has hired a bunch of malcontents, it is far more likely they are trying to force a bunch of good people to comply.

That’s a leadership issue. 

Authentic Servant Leaders do not need the compliance of their people because they have earned their commitment.  

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that earning the commitment of their people is a whole lot of work but they also understand that the payback can be huge. Most of their “people issues” disappear. While compliant people will eventually, kind of, sort of, get the job done a committed person will get the job done better and faster. The enthusiasm of committed people extends beyond an organization’s walls, infecting customers and other stakeholders with a sense of being part of something worthwhile. 

Committed people will outperform compliant people in virtually every way and in virtually every circumstance. 

If you’re going to excel as a leader you must absolutely understand that compliance is not the same as commitment. If you’re struggling with consistent people issues it is very likely that you are trying to lead by compliance. That just doesn’t work long-term, it never has and I find it hard to believe that it ever will.

So you’ll need to change your leadership style to earn the commitment of your people. Remember, you’re the LEADER, if you aren’t committed to change first then don’t expect any changes from your people.

Controlling Leadership

One of the biggest leadership myths around is the myth about leadership control. If you buy into the control myth then you likely believe that once you have a position of leadership you will also have substantially more control over people, things, and circumstances than you did before.

You might have a little more but not much and not often.

I see new leaders all the time trying to over control people and situations and it’s almost always a mistake. New leaders try to get their people to think like them, to act like them and to do most everything just like them. They try to exercise their “authority” over their people and they end up with compliant people but not committed ones. 

New leaders (okay, there are a lot of experienced leaders who think this too) believe their people have to do what they are told in the way that they were told to do it. (by the way, they don’t, they merely have to pretend to) They never even try to get their people committed because they are so fascinated with their newfound ability to make people comply. 

They frequently mistake compliance for control. So new leaders tend to make their plans believing that they control much more than they actually do. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

I might add that no business plan survives contact with the competition and no personal plan survives contact with other people.

When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins. Very little goes totally as planned. Errors pile up. Mistaken suppositions come back to bite you. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality. Because complete leadership control is a myth.

The only thing that a leader can truly control is how they react to the uncontrollable. 

When the uncontrollable and unforeseen events happen do you as a leader calm the storm or add to the turbulence? Do you provide hope to the hopeless or are you hopelessly negative? Are you the model of flexibility and perseverance or do you dither in the comfort of your office?

Are you an Authentic Leader or just someone with a fancy title and position? 

If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to boss your way to compliance and start showing that you trust, understand, and care about your people enough to earn their commitment. If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to control your people and start encouraging and influencing them to commit. 

Controlled people get the job done…barely. Committed people get the job done well, quickly, and completely. People resist control and respond to leadership. 

Authentic Leaders don’t buy into the control myth!