A new director at the company where I worked had a Get-To-Know-Me meeting with all his employees. We grudgingly showed up for another dog-and-pony show by a new boss intending to increase our morale.
But this one was different. Instead of listing all his degrees, experience, and accomplishments, he told us something that has stuck with me for years. John said, “Let me know what I can do to make you look good. That way, I’ll look good, too. We’ll be good for each other.”
I had never looked at leadership that way. All the other bosses had cracked the whip (or so it seemed) and expected us to perform at whatever level they set, with no input from the worker bees. And we all resented them for that.
But this new boss – actually my boss’s boss – wanted all of us, including those directly under him and all the rest of us, to do well. And we outdid ourselves, resulting in the best quarterly reports our group had ever had.
I used John’s example when I went into management. Each of my direct reports was told that I wanted them to do well and to let me know how I could help them. One employee took advantage of that and tried to pass all her work onto me or others. We had a little OJT (On the Job Training) about working as a team, and she changed her tune. But most of them lived up to my expectations.
I’m reminded of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had told Adam to eat of any tree except one. We can only assume that Adam shared that info with Eve, or maybe that God told her after ribbing Adam. (Insert chuckle here.)
After they’d eaten the forbidden fruit, things changed. God was still their father, their leader, but they’d gone against His instructions. They were ashamed and hid.
Did God yell at them and berate them for what they’d done? Did He punish them and throw them out immediately, naked and unprotected? No.
Instead, God lovingly asked them why they were behaving that way and then listened to their answers. He saw that they had covered their nakedness with leaves, so He killed an animal and used the skins to give Adam and Eve proper protective clothing.
God wanted them to look good and feel comfortable, especially since they were going to have to work harder than ever before.
Maybe we can use God’s example in our leadership positions.
- Share our expectations, including rewards and consequences. Too often, leaders don’t communicate their expectations and followers can’t live up to goals they don’t know.
- Expect our followers to follow instructions. Even children can do what they’re told if it’s within their ability and we make it clear to them.
- When our followers don’t meet our expectations, let them explain what happened. Maybe there’s a reason they couldn’t that we hadn’t thought of. Maybe not.
- Follow through with consequences. It’s the same with adults as with children. If we don’t make them suffer the consequences we warned them about, they’ll feel they can continue to behave in an unacceptable way.
- Discipline lovingly, letting them know that they chose whatever punishment was doled out by their action or inaction. One teacher was facing an angry parent because his son had received a failing grade. Parent: “Why did you fail him?” Teacher: “I didn’t fail him. By not studying and not turning in his work, he chose that grade. I just wrote it down.”
Leaders are made, not born. And anyone can learn to be a leader. Choose to be a good one.