Thursday, October 24, 2013

good leadership != push

I don't normally blog about my work, because it can be a dangerous thing to say specifics about people or organizations to which one belongs.  I'm not really going to do that here, but there is something on my mind.

I am a leader at my work, and I have a number of people who work for me.  They are all- without exception - fantastically good people.  I don't have a single, solitary person on my team that can't more than pull their own weight.  They take their jobs seriously, and they do an absolutely great job at what they do.  I love them all dearly, and my success as a leader is directly attributable to this immutable fact.  They make me look good, and every chance I get, I tell them that and demonstrate it in a real and tangible way.  I'm blessed by these folks- I really am.

When I took over this team, there were a lot of problems with a lot of different things, but the main problem was this: for whatever reason, at my job, there was a sense of a good leader is a "cranky" person.  We've all experienced this in our careers, but this was different.  The people who were above me (and most of them are gone now) really saw value in chest beating and berating, because that was "action".  They had no issue with dressing people down in public (subordinates or peers) and it truly bred a fairly hostile environment.  And, like anything that's constantly on fire, the fuel was bound to run out, and it did for them.  90% of that "faction" is gone now.

I never saw the value in this, and I still don't.  I was and am very vocal about it.  In fact, when I see this same spectre come to the forefront, I have a tendency to get quite angry with those who feel that leadership = pushing.  There is a component of that, but by and large, most people want to do a good job at what they are tasked with doing.  Our job as leaders is not to beat that into others, but rather to foster and encourage that.

I have several really good friends at my work who are my peers, and I respect and value them very, very much.  Some of these friends were here during the darker days, and they are so wounded by it, it just breaks my heart.  I try, each day, to include them in my team's activities, and together we have made fantastic strides forward, but every now and then the old behavior returns.  

And, that is where the real damage has occurred.  And, it was given to us by people who thought that leadership = pushing and nothing more.  This is their legacy to the ones who were left to pick up the pieces, and I'd like to say that the frequency of this behavior has diminished over time, but it really hasn't.  I could write a ton of articles about that, but I have no path forward on it, so there's no point.

So what am I trying to say?

It's this: leadership does equal push, but the "push" isn't and should be upon others.  It starts with yourself.  Until you have your own house in order, you have no right to push others no matter what your title is.  Now, it's easy to hide your own faults while pointing out others faults, but in the end, the damage you cause will be far greater than the fruit you will bear.  Be honest and transparent about it, and don't go after others until you have handled your own stuff.  If you do this, you'll find that the collaborative environment you've created can bear a whole lot more fruit in a shorter amount of time, and the people that work for you will respect you for it.

My team is doing very well now.  We still have issues, but what job doesn't, right?  Are our problems worse than others?  I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that it's not germaine; it's ours to win or lose here, and all anyone wants is to be able to do their job to the best level they can, and have people around them that they can depend on.  I think I've fostered that in my own team, and I continue to try.