Friday, March 18, 2005

Leadership Rant

I’ve been thinking about leadership quite a bit lately. I’m in the middle of a few situations that remind me of the need for good leadership. I’m also watching a few situations play out that also show this and more importantly am learning what happens when poor leaders are running the show.

The way I see it is this: if you are in charge of something and you give someone a job to do, your number one priority is to make sure they have everything they need to succeed. You also need to back them up when they make decisions, help them when problems arise, and motivate them to do the best they can but ultimately your number one concern should be making sure you do everything in your power to see them succeed. Why? Because if they don’t succeed at the tasks they are given, your vision will never succeed. It’s that simple. Unless the people you lead are able to do their tasks you won’t get anywhere.

What I see time and time again though, is instead of helping them succeed, leaders are handicapping them from the start. I liken it to giving someone a job to do - sitting on a chair. Just sit there and don’t move. And then about five minutes into the job, the leader takes a baseball bat and whacks off one chair leg. Now sitting still becomes more difficult. After the next leg or two is gone, sitting still is impossible. What usually happens is the leader thinks to himself, “now I gave him one job to do and he can’t even do that!” But who’s fault is it that the person failed?? The leaders! Of course the leader has built it up in his mind that the one doing the task was at fault and he will then do one of several things: 1 - get angry at them for failing, 2 - tell everyone how bad a job the person did, leaving out the part about the broken chair legs, or 3 - give them another task to do, expecting them to fail a second time.

This, my friend, is poor leadership and I see it in many, many situations. I realize that the above chair situation is a silly one, but it gets my point across and fits exactly my mom’s quote I write about yesterday. We want leadership. Even the strongest leader wants someone over them who can lead them. We all want a vision to follow and to live for something that’s worthwhile and that gives us value. Yet many of us are tired of people in charge who put ego ahead of the task at hand, who choose money over people, and who want the power but shirk all of the responsibility. And if you can’t lead effectively and make it your job to see your followers succeed, then get out of the way becuase you are only holding them back, causing them to fail and setting them up for discouragement and disillusion.

I know of someone who is a wonderful leader and she actually takes the blame for things her people did to make them look good. She boasts about them to others, she gives them a lot of chances and she tells them constantly how important they are. She does makes mistakes but is quick to admit to them and she gives her people everything they need to succeed. She considers the success of her people to be the ultimate goal. She doesn’t give them impossible tasks and wait for them to fail and she doesn’t ask of them something she’s not willing to hunker down and do herself. In short, she’s a great leader, and although her role is a small one in a big pond, she is succeeding in ways that others have not. I think of her every time I am in a situation I am called to lead in and I hope that I can do half the job she does on a daily basis.

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