Before diving into my first leadership role I was advised by a well-respected member of our Management team. She told me, “Don’t get too close to your people, you will get burned”. I countered her advising with the thought that creating a monarchy would isolate me from my team….to which she said “exactly”. I didn’t agree with this method at the time and still do not.
Have we not grown past the point of leaning on titles to establish boundaries created by assumed hierarchy? Is not trust far more important than where we fit on the org chart? How can trust be genuinely established if we do not allow ourselves to be genuinely accessible to those we advise? Is a title just a way of validating the insecurity of those hell-bent on proving their worth?
Think of the best leaders you have had a chance to follow. Did you trust their judgment? Were they exemplary in their work ethic? Did they possess an irreplaceable skill set? Did you feel secure in their decision making ability? Did they connect really well with people?
My guess is that every Leader possesses the aforementioned characteristics. But, what’s the secret sauce – that one element that differentiates a leader from a manager?
Exhibit A: Ignorance of Formal Structure
Believe it or not there are still people who grip their title like a school kid who won’t share the ball. They suppose that because they have earned a management distinction that this gives them the right to assume an authoritative perspective. An assigned official is not an elected official. A title can only be dignified through the respect of those you lead (not those who assign titles).
Exhibit B: General Likability
Have you heard the story of the person who just wanted to be part of the gang but was not held in popular opinion? He worked really hard to have control over a jury of his peers (instead of joining the jury).
The pursuit of success is easier to navigate if you are upbeat and positive. Your team feeds off of high energy and a solution-savvy mindset. It is a heck of a lot easier to lead when your team is receptive to your guidance (not dodging your advice).
Exhibit C: Trust
To recap what I wrote last week: You either lead by the bench or the basket.
The true key to leadership is passing along transferrable skills and trusting people to apply them. If your system is accountability to metrics – you are a manager not a leader!
I would like to think that people have taken my advising to heart, not for granted. People are willing to work hard for people they trust and who trust them. When you start treating people like numbers you reduce yourself to a name on the org chart.
Would you rather have a title or the respect of those you lead?
Thank you for reading!