It happens from time to time in every organization.
Perhaps those appointed, elected, or assigned to the responsibilities of leadership forget what it was like to be led. Perhaps along the way of corporate or organizational “ladder climbing” they lost touch with true tangibles which are grounded in reality. It can be true even within the Christian world that power corrupts absolutely.
What are the warning signs as leaders that we ought to be aware of? What kinds of tools can we utilize in our leadership models in order to stay relevant and lead with passion and vision so that others will follow? I think it begs to be said but authoritative leadership cannot be respected or maintain just by brute force. The result of leading in such a way is a leadership of fear and not respect. Good leaders strive to make additional leaders along the way, not subjugation and “my way or the highway” philosophies.
3 Warning Signs – tools to help leaders stay in touch with reality:
1. Cultivate a spirit of authentic humility:
When the veneer and “polished” shine wears off of new leaders it is important to live within a spirit of authentic humility. Those with whom you are leading need to know you are human and that you do not place yourself above their needs. Humility within good leadership is usually developed not born. It is much easier to lord over followers barking out orders and playing favorites. It is easy to become a bad leader. It is much harder to be a good leader. Good leadership takes work and deep consideration of the needs of their followers. Becoming humble despite the potential privileges that leadership can offer speaks volumes to those being led. When we adopt a true spirit of humility within leadership, the paradigm of “top down” organizational structure is turned on its head…and this is a good thing!
Humility in leadership has the ability win advocates not just “followers”. What I mean by that is this – some followers will just follow out of obligation, but to cultivate productivity, respect and genuine leadership one must gain advocates within those you lead. Being humble while leading is absolutely one way to cultivate these kinds of relationships within your organizational base.
2. Listen to opposing arguments & perspectives
Good leaders aren’t afraid of criticism, in fact they willingly engage in productive ideas sharing. This doesn’t mean that the vision or mission of the organization should be sidetracked by opposing views but rather a good leader will listen to alternative methods to accomplishing the same mission and vision. All too often I think insecure leaders are unwilling to be challenged because they lack the confidence in their own leadership abilities. They see opposing or alternative views as threatening, even insubordination, when in fact others (even followers) are striving to accomplish the same goals and objectives. Suddenly, instead of listening to other people’s opinions and ideas, the insecure leader will shoot them down and reprimand because they feel their leadership abilities are in question. Lack of true listening as a leader is a warning sign for poor leadership and a polarized organizational vision.
A good leader desires to actively listen to those they lead and seeks to consistently improve the mission through innovation and ideas sharing. When a company or organization values the thoughts and ideas of others within the team, the mission can advance faster and more efficiently. Great leaders are willing to fight for the ideas and thoughts of those who are subordinate yet passionate about mission. Listening, really listening is crucial to great leaders. Without such an ability, common leaders (which far out number great leaders) will ignore, plod on, and become out of touch with reality.
3. Invest in People not the Product (or Mission):
Equipping, discipling, and developing future leaders must be a valued focus of great leaders. Yes the mission or product is important to the success of whatever organization but without the people doing the hard labor behind the mission or product the organization will eventually fail. All too often the mission (or product) gets placed above the people. Suddenly people are not treated like people but rather just another number or warm body to facilitate the desired outcomes. When this happens the company or organization can become a cold place to work. Those who work there might be begin to feel unimportant, morale might be low, vision can be misplaced for simply “survival”, and the passion for the mission might evaporate entirely.
In the vein of this warning sign, leaders might sense something is wrong with the organization or company, but because of their disconnectedness to the reality of those they serve in leadership, they may conclude that the remedy is another program or ‘relabeled’ slogan. Without the aforementioned characteristics of great leaders, (Authentic Humility and Active Listening) the common leader will strive to improve the company or organization through more program and success driven ideas without the inclusion of its followers. When this happens the common leader has decided that they will invest in the product or mission over the people. All too often, through this impersonal leadership method, common leaders will sacrifice the few (or the many) for the sake of marginal product/mission success.
These are the warning signs of leaders who are out of touch with reality. The reason I write this today is to help us decide what kind of leader that WE want to be both in life and in our places of employment. These are very common threats to any organization or company, and without corrective steps and measures, attrition rates within the organization or company will increase. Coupled with that loss, the mission and vision will become harder and harder to accomplish and the investment in people instead of product (programs and mission) will be abandoned.
I, for one do not want to become disconnected and out of touch…do you?
-Just something else to ponder today…be the kind of leader that you aspire others to be!!!