You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
I remember being a meeting with an LAPD captain during the 1990’s. One of the officers asked the captain why he didn’t take into consideration an idea from one of his subordinates. The captain’s response was “Because I’m the Captain and you’re not.” To this day I cannot recall one other thing that captain accomplished during his tour of duty at that station. His legacy was that he was the man in charge.
Every leader needs to define themselves as to what type of leader they want to become. We already know some of the traits associated with bad leaders. What are some of the best traits? Here are some that may lay the groundwork for a legacy to be proud of.
Temper discipline with compassion - Most good leaders hate to discipline good workers. However, it is a necessary evil. Some subordinates are super worthy of being disciplined because they just don’t get it. Still, as a leader you must remember you have committed some major league screw ups in your time and sometimes the boss just let you skate by with a slap on the wrist. Sure you need to do something if a problem arises. Sometimes a wayward subordinate just needs to know they have disappointed you. Discipline (hopefully) corrects behavior. Compassion allows you the flexibility to be remembered as not being heavy-handed just because you’re wearing the big boss pants. Every time you need to counsel or reprimand someone remember this: Sometimes they remind you of your younger days. You just didn’t get caught. Trust me, they’ll remember the time you didn’t fire them because they took a company pen home.
There is one rule book, not two - Yeah, this is often a tough one for bosses. Here’s the headline: The same rules that apply to employees also apply to bosses. No one ever told you this, eh? Go into any organization and find the secret “Employee Manual For Bosses”. We all know it’s there somewhere hidden in the company files. Bosses are issued the secret double-standard manual when they learn the secret boss handshake and fake laugh. Don’t be this kind of boss. Be a leader and apply the same rules to yourself that you apply to those who work for you. If you come in late, don’t be a loser who chastises your subordinate who comes in late. Otherwise, march your butt into your bosses office and snitch yourself off whenever you drop the ball. In other words, the big picture is to lead by example.
Don’t be a control freak – Your position of power is not meant to be self-help therapy. We should all be aware of our own insecurities and recognize how they affect us and those who work for us. A good leader shields their people from, check this out, themselves. No, I’m not a psychologist, but this should make sense if you’ve ever worked for a boss who “led” by having to make themselves feel better about themselves. You can become a great leader by not manifesting your insecurities in such a way that it is controlling and suffocating to your employees. Learn about you. You may not like what you see, but you’ll impress the people around you by not letting your weaknesses define you as a leader.
Respect your people – There are two incredible compliments anyone can give a leader. I want to work for you and I’ll follow you. You have been given an opportunity to create vision for your employees by having them walk alongside you in what you want to do. The best leaders are those who understand they are not the end-all to end-all. They understand they aren’t great because God anointed them at birth. Leaders can be great because great people of equal or greater value follow them. Let your people know you value their opinions and thoughts. Make sure they know you couldn’t do it without the greatest team ever assembled.
Train people to replace you – The greatest leaders are not immortal. What you should be doing is imparting your best skills and knowledge into the minds of those around you. You should pour knowledge into everyone who works for you. A leader will rise to take your place. If you do it right they may become greater than you. So what. Imagine being there when a diamond-in-the-rough leader worked under your wing and made an impact on the world around you. Now that would be something to make you proud.
A legacy can be good or bad. What kind of legacy will you leave behind?