To be a good leader, you must first become a good manager. To do that, you must earn and accrue respect from the folks you manage. After all, the people give you permission to be a leader, not your position on the organization chart.
Leadership is a learned skill. It seems to me that we forget that sometimes. I believe it’s true that some people appear to be “natural born” leaders. However, often, they are taught some of the skills around leadership by mentors and by continually reading leadership articles and books.
Live the Corporate Values
As I’ve said many times on the blog, our people watch what we do. Our actions speak so loudly, they do not hear what we say. If we say our values include respect for our people, yet we do not treat employees equally, then it quickly becomes apparent that respect for people isn’t a real cultural value.
If, as leaders, we claim that our people are our most valuable asset, but when times get tough, we immediately cut employment to diminish expenses, then people are not our most valuable asset. That is an especially stark disconnect when executive bonus and pay is obviously out of proportion for those employees actually doing the work that generates the revenue. Which brings me to trust.
Trust between human beings is created when “I believe you have my best interest at heart, not just your own.” Trust is built in a team when everyone on the team believes that not only does trust exist between individuals, but the people will put the success of the team ahead of individual advancement. We all know that without trust, the team will be dysfunctional.
One of the most widely cited attributes of a leader is that of articulating a clear path to a future state of the business. In most leadership circles today, there is much talk of innovation and disruption. To disrupt her own business and industry, a leader must have earned respect and trust of her people. Otherwise, they will not follow her into the unknown.
Your title and position on the organization chart make you a manager. But your people will make you a leader. Therefore, it is critical that you earn their respect, live the corporate values, articulate a clear vision, earn trust, and demonstrate being tough but fair with all employees. You can neither demand respect, nor can you assume a leadership role without permission.