One of my very good friends, Maj. General Karl Horst (US Army Ret.), shared the essence of true leadership with me in one phrase — “It’s not a rank; it’s a responsibility.”
Embracing the General’s premise, it’s unfortunate that those in positions of leadership sometimes crush their credibility (and occasionally their careers) by renouncing professional responsibility and making five fatal mistakes
“Oh my gosh! I just love it when my boss lies to me.” Ever hear that before? I didn’t think so. When our parents encouraged us to always tell the truth —that was pretty solid advice. Bad leaders have an assortment of convenient reasons for the justification of a lie. No explanation, however, can remedy the irreparable damage that a falsehood causes to the leader-follower relationship. If you are a leader that lies, you are not a leader. What you are is a fraud.
People aren’t stupid. Employees know when the boss is selling them a bill of goods. Sad to say, some leaders assume that their position gives them permission to manipulate the good intentions of their people.
A payables clerk in a hospital accounting office confided in me that the supervisor came to her desperately in need of a special favor to complete an extra project for the CEO on schedule. During the week or so it took for the assignment, the supervisor could not have been more supportive of the clerk, encouraging her and taking her out to lunch on two occasions. After the project was completed successfully, the supervisor barely acknowledged the clerk’s presence.
If you are a manipulator, your followers already know it.
When I assumed leadership of a team of fourteen process improvement facilitators, the advice of my leader never left me. She said, “Remember Tom, you are one of, you are not above.”
So now you have a new title, a bigger office, more people to lead, and a heck of a lot more power by virtue of your role. What do you do? Don’t make the mistake of closing your door, hiding in your office, commanding and controlling from behind your computer, and never figuring out the difference between power and authority.
Here’s the bottom line. You have power by virtue of your role in the company; you have zero authority until your followers give it to you. And for that to happen, you must engage them, interact with them, listen to them, and walk side-by-side with them as you strive to accomplish your business mission.
The only word that I can think of for a whiney leader is — pathetic. Whiners are the excuse-mongers who never have the right people, never have the right budget, and never have the right market conditions. Excuses justify, right? Wrong.
If you are a leader that whines the question would be, “How did you ever get to a position of influence in the first place?” Whoever put you there made a huge error in judgment. Get a grip, grow up, and behave like you have a clue about what it means to lead.
Certain leaders could qualify to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted list as serial killers. They assassinate careers, butcher collaboration, and strangle consensus to name a few of their heinous corporate crimes. And the end result of this often-silent destruction is the death of performance, productivity, and profit. Unfortunately, the board of directors or ownership doesn’t find out until after the crimes have already been committed. Then it’s too late.
What weak leaders fail to grasp is that by knowing, engaging, and uplifting their employees, a much more positive organizational outcome would be the result.
In summary, don’t let the great things you can accomplish as a leader slip away by falling victim to the five credibility crushers that will eventually ruin both you and your company.