People in leadership positions tell others what to do. Authentic Leaders ask others how they can help them do it.
When I’m trying to determine someone’s leadership ability that’s one of the first things I watch for. Are they telling or are they asking. Authentic Leaders seldom wonder what’s going on in the lives of the people they lead. They seldom guess about why their people make the decisions they make. They don’t assume they know what motivates their people. They don’t need to assume because they have asked.
If you’re in a leadership position when was the last time you asked each of the people you lead how you can help them remain consistently motivated? When was the last time you asked them how their job or position was treating them. When was the last time you asked them about their goals or objectives…and not only professional goals but personal goals as well? When was the last time you asked them what you or the company could do to ensure they never feel the need to look elsewhere for employment?
When was the last time you asked them specifically if they were certain that they were having an impact on the organization? When was the last time you asked them how you could help them be more effective? When was the last time you asked them how you could honor them? When was the last time you asked them anything at all?
Here’s a question that many people in leadership positions would never think of asking. It’s also a question that Authentic Leaders ask fairly often. “How am I doing as a leader?”
I’ll never ask someone in a leadership position how they are doing as a leader. It’s hard for any of us to see ourselves in the same way as others see us. So when I want to know how about the effectiveness of a particular leader I ask the people they lead.
If you’ve established trust with the people you lead they will provide you with an honest answer. If you haven’t established trust with them then you’re not an effective leader. Sorry to be so direct and unequivocal with that but it’s a fact. You cannot lead people who do not trust you.
I often hear from people in leadership positions that they don’t have time to ask these kinds of questions. Funny thing is I never hear that from Authentic Leaders. It’s not that Authentic Leaders have more time, it’s that they have their priorities in the proper order. They know that their own success is dependent upon the people they lead succeeding.
They also know it is far easier to help them succeed if they invest the time to really know them. So they ask more and tell less.
Douglas MacArthur was one of the greatest military leaders the United States of America ever produced. General MacArthur’s discipline and leadership extended beyond his military service. He was of course an effective general but also a renowned statesman, administrator and corporate leader.
Through the years, biographies of MacArthur have noted what they call “The MacArthur Tenets,” and they developed a series of questions that reflect the human relations and leadership principles that people saw in him.
These are the types of questions that all leaders should be asking themselves from time to time. Better yet, perhaps they should be asking their mentor or maybe even their followers.
I am not particularly found of the term “subordinate” and the tone of some of the questions is a bit terse but given the fact the both MacArthur and at least some of his biographers had military backgrounds I understand their use of the term and the inclusive, direct nature of the questions.
Here are the questions the biographers came up with:
- Do I heckle my subordinates or strengthen and encourage them?
- Do I use moral courage in getting rid of subordinates who have proven themselves beyond doubt to be unfit?
- Have I done all in my power by encouragement, incentive and spur to salvage the weak and erring?
- Do I know by NAME and CHARACTER a maximum number of subordinates for whom I am responsible? Do I know them intimately?
- Am I thoroughly familiar with the technique, necessities, objectives and administration of my job?
- Do I lose my temper at individuals?
- Do I act in such a way as to make my subordinates WANT to follow me?
- Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?
- Do I arrogate everything to myself and delegate nothing?
- Do I develop my subordinates by placing on each one as much responsibility as he can stand?
- Am I interested in the personal welfare of each of my subordinates, as if he were a member of my family?
- Have I the calmness of voice and manner to inspire confidence, or am I inclined to irascibility and excitability?
- Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?
- Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?
- Is my door open to my subordinates?
- Do I think more of POSITION than JOB?
- Do I correct a subordinate in the presence of others?
Your answer to these questions can go a long way towards helping you become the type of leader people want to follow, regardless of your position or title. How would you answer them and how would the people you are responsible to lead answer them?
Oh by the way, honesty absolutely counts when answering.