I have a been in a Leadership position at my place of employment for over half of my 15+ year career at said establishment. It took me longer than usual to apply for a Leadership position purely because I know myself and I know that it sometimes takes me longer than the mass populous when it comes to making moves into the unknown.
I recently decided to go back to school (thanks to an education based incentive program at my current place of employment) to obtain my Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, so I am doing a lot of research and studying on the topic. I find it amazing how I can see people practicing what would be considered “good” leadership and also many, unfortunately, utilizing “bad” leadership tactics and skills. Recently, I have had a lot more people coming up to me at work and complimenting my Leadership Style and asking my advice. Although I am flattered by the compliments (I’m quite humble when it comes to receiving compliments on my work), I find it odd that more people do not lead the way I choose to: caring about the people and knowing the work will come.
I care about the people I work with, plan and simple. I might not get along with every single human being that I oversee, but I care that they have a good day at work, set up for success, feel supported and trusted, and above all, feel confident in that what they are do is vital to the operation. Caring about the humans that are the forefront of the product you are selling, be it a concrete product or a more abstract one, ultimately leads to better work performance from those people. It is important to remember that the people that you oversee are, exactly that, PEOPLE! People who will have good days, bad days, breakups, screaming matches with their significant others, overcome obstacles that you have no idea even happened, and will experience the death of their loved ones. As a leader, this ALL needs to be taken into account. As Hill Harper once said, “You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. You never know what’s really going on behind what they present.”
At my job, the product we sell is emotion. I know that sounds weird and abstract, but just bear with me. The job of the majority frontline employees that I oversee is to evoke an emotion out of a human being; now, if that is not one of the most difficult sounding jobs out there, then what is?! With that kind of job, one must hire emotional people, plain and simple. (Honestly, could you imagine someone like Ben Stein evoking emotion out of people?) Now, with emotional people, you get a lot of good emotional reactions and evocations! However, there is also the pendulum that swings the other way; emotional people dive into deep depressions, often get triggered easily, and can tend to react in a larger manner than someone who is not as emotional. As a leader, you need to understand that in the people you are leading- they will have 20 good days, but there will also be a handful of bad days in there and those bad days are the ones that the leader(s) need to be sensitive to. Robin Williams, one of the funniest, most talented and happiest looking men on the planet, took his own life after dealing with severe depression. However, before he passed, he said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy.” Emotional people exude emotion- both kinds.
Caring about people is honestly the key to my leadership; in one word, compassion. If you care about the people that you are overseeing, then it will show in their work. You always want someone to choose to work for you, otherwise they will work against you. The one thing that I always tell my employees is that, “I want everyone to have a good day.” If that happens, then my employees are happy and in turn, the clientele is happy, then I don’t get as many complaints to deal with; I call this, the Circle of Life, because it makes everyone’s lives easier and less stressful.
Another thing that I find very important in leadership is trust. If you can trust everyone to do their job, and they know that you trust them, then the job will get done. I often say, “If there’s nothing to do, then the leader must be doing their job right.” My employees know that I trust them, I think this is why a lot of them enjoy when I am in charge of them for the day. I find that trusting your employees leads to so much less stress in the workplace. Now, if an employee does something to cause that trust to break, then that is a conversation to have with the employee and work to getting that trust earned back (sometimes a long process). One thing that a leader should not do though is completely write off the employee once trust is broken; I find that this is often the norm when it comes to the leaders that I have (which, quite honestly, breaks my heart).
Now, being kind to people and trusting them sometimes means that people will take advantage of that kindness and trust. In those instances, a conversation must be had to establish that you are not a pushover and that if they need a babysitter, then, even though it is not my style, I will be that babysitter (and the employee will hate it); that is an example of trust being broken. However, if the employee shows that they are correcting the behavior, then the path to earning back that trust must be started and grudges cannot be held – grudges are not healthy in any form.
You are usually not in control of choosing the people you work with or who work under you, but you can choose how you treat those people. The world needs more kindness all around. If you are in a leadership role, please remember to be kind to those around you; you never know what someone may be going though.