Most of us have had the experience, at least once in our career, of working for a boss who loved his/her role because it was all about:
- I’m special (after all, they made me the boss)
- I deserve extra respect (because I’m special, of course)
- I have real power (try opposing me and you’ll feel the brunt of it)
- I own this place (let’s be clear, this is my operation)
- I’m more important than my staff (not really, but…well, I guess so)
This screams entitlement!, I’m sure you would agree. Power–even the idea of having it–can be intoxicating. It’s allure is archetypal; it comes with our wiring as humans. This is why every creature in Middle Earth was trying to nab the ring away of Frodo Baggins and Frodo himself was sorely tempted to succumb to its seduction several times in The Lord of the Rings. (So, the archetype extends to hobbits, I guess.)
The problem is that it’s hard for the employees of such a manager to feel their hearts go “pitty pat” in response to the cause of the boss’s greater glory. We simply won’t be as engaged or work as hard as we are capable of working. In effect, such a manager’s entitlement mindset runs smack dab into another human archetype: the employee’s ever present question, What’s in it for me? (often referred to as WIIFM)
A manager who aspires to real effectiveness should engage instead in what management consultant Robert Greenleaf called servant leadership, in essence, seeing yourself as serving those you manage. Or, to quote Bill George from his terrific book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership,
“To become authentic leaders, we must discard the myth that leadership means having legions of supporters following our direction as we ascend the pinnacles of power.
Only then can we realize that authentic leadership is about empowering others on their journeys.
The shift is the transformation from ‘I’ to ‘We.’ It is the most important process leaders go through in becoming authentic.”
If ever you feel the tug of that ol’ Ring of Power, pause and remind yourself that you are leading a unit or enterprise that has importance beyond your own well being and aggrandizement. You people will sense it. And they will contribute more of their capacity simply because of it.