Phil Larson, Director Shepherd Consulting and Community Transformation Initiative
Every leader is challenged to develop leadership in key followers. It is frustrating to look out and yearn for true leadership in our team. Yet, we find that people today don’t stay with any company for any length of time. Leadership takes time. You can get long term commitment. It is possible. You have to do things differently.
One of the greatest managers of all history, Solomon, put it this way in his comprehensive book on managing life, relationships, business, and government, Proverbs:
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
Good Goals: Seems like a good objective. For centuries others have read Solomon’s snippets of wisdom. Solomon transmitted what he knew to others that were managing his affairs.
Sun Tzu attempted the same objective from the Chinese war lord perspective and penned, The Art of War. It really is much more about living than dying. It is about managing and relationships in a turbulent society. He was intent in training others.
Others have done the same. My bookshelf is full of snippet books from great managers and leaders. The lessons of great men and women can give us guidance in tough situations.
Time Counts: But, if no one stays the task to work out the wisdom and be developed in the fine nuances, you simply lose your investment. They move on and build another business that may in fact take away from your business. Astute business managers are not happy when they lose the value of an investment in either people or property. People are not property. They have wills and emotions and desires and must be treated differently.
Be Loyal: Handle Conflict Up Front and Fast The common business practice of today is to demand loyalty from staff, yet make decisions without being loyal to them and their families and lives. Making the legal decision is not always a loyal decision. Listening to accusations and gossip concerning staff without direct clarification and consultation is not a position of loyalty but fear and low self-confidence and politicking of the negative kind.
“The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.” ― Stephen M.R. Covey, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything
Greatness: A great leader for whom I worked early in my career came into my office with an anonymous letter. It accused me of some indiscretions. The letter had gone to the president of the company. We had been in a turnaround organization situation where hard decisions were being made daily. Of course people were not in 100% agreement. Of course people are people. The prior management of the company had been prone to politics and finger pointing. Everyone knew that and knew how to trip the wires to get what they wanted. This new management had better integrity; otherwise, I would not be working for them.
Openers: The leader’s opening comment set the stage. “Phil, before you read the letter you need to know that both the CFO and I told the president that this does not sound like you.” He started from a position of loyalty and honesty and open communication. We discussed the contents, who might have sent it, why they might have sent it, was there anything I needed to adjust in managing, and moved on. The company came out of a chapter 11 situation in record time and we all enjoyed our time together. Loyalty and trust were the words of the day and the owners received great benefit. I would go to work beside this man again in a minute if the opportunity arose that was mutually beneficial.
Dear Failure, I am writing today…. Failure on this point costs dearly. Typical management style would have been to have secreted the letter into the unofficial personnel file, brooded over the contents, discussed it with others, and promoted politics. That is how most organizations roll. Yes, you do. Admit it and quit it. Little birds leak that style into the hallways and the entire organization suffers loss of key staff at the most inopportune moments. Disloyal behavior in the board room promotes disloyal behavior at the point of customer contact. It is not a secret. Get real and get honest.
Go Ahead And Share Insights: All of us have insights gained in leadership. Most of us hold them close to the chest and make upcoming leaders dig them out like some buried treasure. Why are you leaving leadership undeveloped by forcing them to guess? Are you afraid you are wrong about what you know is right? Take a few minutes every day to intentionally leak leadership.
An Amazing Gift: Last year my team brought me an amazing gift. It was thirty-one leadership wisdoms they had learned from me over the course of the prior three years. They could repeat them and could apply them. They made them into a flip calendar. I was amazed and humbled. It shocked me that they had discerned so willingly tips of leadership and management and relationship and had integrated them into their work and home habits. Somehow, great leaders had taught me to be open with wisdom and it was building other leaders. Pass it on.
Starting Right: My mind goes back to my first assistant supervisor position. One day I went into the manager’s office somewhat nonchalantly for a meeting. He looked me direct in the eye from across his desk. “Phil, go get a pen and paper and come back. Don’t ever go into a meeting with a leader without expectation of receiving instruction, noting it, and being responsible to follow up.” Now, he probably said something different, but that is what he communicated. Wow! I listened and have repeated that wisdom hundreds of times to those for whom I’ve had responsibility to develop as leaders. Leak leadership. Do it intentionally.
To Work, Two Work: Do these two and you’ll increase your leadership impact. These are core items. They can guide you and prevent major mishaps. Sure, I can tell you stories of when I’ve violated them or seen others violate them and the destruction it caused. You know those stories. None of us are perfect. But perfect practice might just result in better performance as a leader, longer relationships with other leaders, and some real fun and satisfaction watching development of trusted leadership and sustained organizational progress.
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