A Perspective on Reality and Leadership
Leadership can be a tricky topic. Leader. Follower. Manager. It’s a term that the world has tried to apply standard labels to, but has found that there is either no standard or too many to choose from. What makes a leader good, or effective? (What makes a leader ineffective?) And how much of that perception is your own versus the influence of the masses (your coworkers, the corporation you work for, the industry in which your corporation operates)?
I’ve been a leader. I’ve been a manager. I’ve been a worker bee, or a follower in the terms noted above. Sometimes those roles have been singular. Other times they have been blended into one. The topic of leadership is so interesting to me that I completed a graduate degree in it. In the right crowd, leadership can turn into a heated topic – both positive and negative depending on the people involved in the conversation and what aspect of leadership is being discussed. And that in itself is part of the reason leadership makes my brain go into a happy dance.
Last weekend, the homily at church was a discussion of why Jesus (a leader of the people, a follower of God…see how the roles blend?) went to the River Jordan to receive a baptism of penance and conversion from John. Here was a leader participating in something that was unnecessary for him as a person, but his participation was acknowledged by the people being baptized, immersing Himself in the human condition. And THAT is what got the wheels turning in my head for this post.
Follwership has always intrigued me the most about leadership. A leader cannot be successful on her (or his) own – a village is required to achieve goals in most organizations. That leader is responsible for setting a vision of what all of the followers need to accomplish, and the followers needs to trust and believe in that vision. Yet how often do you see the leader living in the trenches? Showing true interest in what, why, and how something is being completed? Conversely, how often do you see a leader “too busy” or “too aloof” to take notice of such things, relying on managers and directors for that information? Granted, there is a hierarchy for a reason, but as a worker bee, wouldn’t it be good to experience (not just know) that the leader is fully attentive to what you’re doing? In how your specific contributions will help the business achieve an over-arching goal? That they have as much skin in the game as you do?
From my experience, this is a “sweet spot” of leadership. Knowing people’s names, knowing how they contribute, knowing that they could tell me something was awesome or stunk to high heaven and knowing that their opinion would be respected. As a leader, being a part of the reality of the workplace and the organization.
Accessibility is key to a constructive environment and relationship with both people and the business. Being seen in action, both in the trenches and in the boardroom, is essential to a leader gaining trust and respect within their organization. Yes, it takes a lot (A LOT) of time to add the trenches to your occasional workday, but it’s worth it.
What is your experience? What have people you consider to be good leaders done in the workplace to earn your trust and respect? Leave a reply to this post below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.