As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honour and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’ – Lao Tzu
I was talking to a director of a company recently about the situation inside a company they were involved with.
They were making some interesting observations about the company and, surprise surprise, the core subject was leadership.
What was interesting was the discussion about style of leadership.
You see, it’s easy to think that the best leaders are the loudest ones, the most confident ones, the ones with all the ideas.
But that’s not the case.
A true leader is one who has people on the journey with them.
Being the dominant leader works in some situations, for a period of time.
But not everywhere. And not for ever.
So, thinking about being the long term, sustainable leader involves a few framing structures:
- Make sure people know the path forward in terms they understand. If they can’t explain it to their mates at a BBQ, is it really understood?
- Make sure there is genuine trust in the business. Not words on a poster, and not nodding agreement and actually feeling the opposite. How do people actually operate when no one is watching?
- Make sure the old 2:2:1 (2 ears, 2 eyes, and 1 mouth) ratio applies. Is input sought and valued? Is it ok to provide constructive criticism, even of the leadership? Or are people scared of providing input?
- Make sure values are espoused and lived. No point in having values that are good for posters, or good for everyone else, but not lived by the leadership, right
- Importantly, make sure the perception of leadership is what other people say, not what the leader thinks.
So here are the key questions:
- As a leader, are you really sure that your views of your leadership align with what other people think?
- Or are you too arrogant to ask?
- And, if you did ask, would they tell you the truth?
It’s actually the power of the team that follows the leader that makes the organisation successful.
And it’s the focus on them that really is the spark that drives success for every team, right?
Food for thought.