Does a new title and office make you a good leader?
Unfortunately, there are many – way too many – people who think so. What would make you believe that a mere change of your stationary and different office make you so special and different than before? Sure, you can affect change in people when you pull rank. Bad news is that you are pushing a lot of activity and decisions into the underground when you do that.
The first time I bumped into this topic really badly was when I was drafted into the German Army. One of my fellow lance corporals was promoted to non-commissioned officer. The next day he turned into a different person. His new epaulets on his shirts were so new and crisp that you could have sliced bread with it. And now that he had a different rank he demanded to be addressed differently, he no longer hung out with us, and we needed to serve him coffee among many other issues. In other words he really thought that he had been bestowed with different powers overnight.
One important thing he overlooked was that we would not ever trust him. How could we? He always seemed to reign from a level above us – never at the same level. He had become too enamored of the term “I command you”. One day I was so tired of the constant commanding that I chose to take him a too literal. Working on a large Diesel powered truck the exhaust system lined up with the non-commissioned officer office. Stone cold these beasts would create quite a bit of smoke. I started it and sure enough he came out and said: “What are you doing? If I was in your place I would hit the gas even more!”. I am sure he had meant that to come out sarcastically, but I hit the gas and the smoke got worse… That’s what you get when you follow a “do as I tell you and don’t do as I do” routine.
Compare this with his peers who emphasized on leading by example. They did not need a new piece of uniform in order to influence people. We would have followed them through thick and thin. Why? They were great leaders and here are some items that made them above average:
- Genuine: Always seeing eye to eye with direct reports.
- Honesty: No falsifying of person or facts.
- Servitude: Thinking of others before themselves.
- Empathy and compassion: Being is just as important as doing. Recognizing that we are all humans with needs and wants.
- Fair: Being non-judgmental when leading people and doing the right thing even if it is not popular or safe.
- Communication: Doing what you say and saying what you do.
- Perseverance: Never leaving before the job is done – no matter how hard it may be.
- Fiercely focused and determined: Getting him/ herself to align towards a common mission and then following it.
- Collaboration: Including everyone in communication and the decision making process.
- Promotion: Promoting others toward finding and fulfilling their potential.
- Humor: Knowing how to laugh and love making others laugh.
- Dependability: Creating predictable outcome in anything that needs to get done.
- Planning ahead: Looking ahead for clearing the path for the rest of the troops to follow safely.
- Trust: Trusting him/ herself and others just the same.
- Curious: Asking why things are the way that they are. Can they be improved upon?
- Taking risk: Calculating the risk of any endeavor well before executing it.
- Experience and competency: Knowing your stuff for being a true resource.
Contrast this list (it’s only a start) with the band width of a single order. That is pretty narrow and not far reaching. There is obviously so much more to being a great leader than meets the eye. Worse yet is the fact that if you do not learn and master this list, there is a grave chance of missing the boat completely.
You will not be included in important information and decision making will not be asked of you anymore. What you have now is little to no information and whatever you have may be totally questionable. Due to the lack of trust time and cost go up. Is that what you are really after?