“We need leaders who add value to the people and the organization they lead; who work for the benefit of others and not just for their own personal gain, who inspire and motivate rather than intimidate and manipulate; who live with people to know their problems and live with God in order to solve them; and who follow a moral compass that points in the right direction regardless of the trends.” – Mary Kay Ash
Good leadership is needed for the continual progress of every organization. Exceptional leadership recognizes the value not only inside of skills and abilities, but equally within relationships – knowing that wherever the latter are ignored true success continues to elude, or at best can only be a short-lived experience. Over the years, different styles of leadership emerged depending on the traits, behavioural tendencies, and characteristic methods used by leaders. To name a few, there is a style of an authoritarian leader, democratic leader, even laissez-faire (transl. “let things alone”) leader. There is a distinction to a charismatic leader, and a bureaucratic leader. Interestingly, there is yet another dimension, which compares a task motivated, and a relationship-motivated leadership. As much as different circumstances call for application of a different set of rules, and no leadership style introduced by people is able to deliver perfect results, it is necessary to learn that relationships gained and saved are some of the greatest assets a leader may acquire. Because of their importance, this article explores some of the leadership dos and don’ts in the area of relationships.
Do not underestimate those who contribute to your progress
For instance, in order to remain an employer one needs employees. If the latter group does not feel appreciated, they will look for another employer (one that recognizes value in people). The words of Mary Kay Ash (honored as one of the leading entrepreneurs in American history) put it this way: “People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. … A company is only as good as the people it keeps.” Very high employee turnover is usually a sure way towards stopping the growth of an organization. If that is the culture in your company – a great deal of time gets wasted. Rather than directed towards dealing with all the many challenges that come around daily, your time and attention are tied up in training and waiting for yet another person to grow to the position they will probably leave behind. Of course, it is possible to successfully convince an employee into thinking they are worth very little – making them an easy target of manipulation. Yet, what is gained this way is a wasted potential of an employee with no self-esteem who does not truly care, or is unable to excel in his/her work.
Only promise what you can deliver (Count the cost)
Do not negotiate a professional relationship if you know you won't be able to meet its conditions. If you do decide to negotiate, let the other party know that fulfillment of your part is conditional. Promises should be treated seriously, especially the ones given by us to others. Of course, there may be circumstances beyond our control that would not have been predicted. Yet, it is necessary to make sure that all had been done in order to provide whatever assurances had previously been promised. If for whatever reason keeping a promise becomes impossible, it is necessary to communicate openly and apologetically about it. Subsequently, it is vital that whenever possible, a compensation for the losses is offered to whomever it is due.
Guide people into becoming what they need to become
It is important to have clear expectations and to build relationships on the foundation of a mutual understanding of everyone’s initial responsibilities. Yet, it is also valid that a leader takes time to recognize gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses and aspirations of those under his/her leadership before deciding what guidance or advice would be best suited. Bill Gates’, whose leadership style is more likely to be defined as task-motivated, has been reported to say, “…, leaders will be those who empower others.” That seems quite a correct observation, and for the purpose of this article it is worth adding that it takes a measure of getting to know others before moving onto empowering them in the right direction.Respect the potential you find in people and welcome their initiative. Give them time and space necessary to develop. Many are times when people already have a solid vision and what they need is a timely word of advice, encouragement, or motivation rather than a great deal of pressure to perform. A leader should definitely not be expected to explain everything to everyone. After all, someone has to be the decision maker. Yet, communicating and listening to others should help one gain respect as a guide rather than resentment as a dictator who gets his/her way through impartation of unhealthy fears.
Know not only what belongs to you, but also what doesn’t
Being in a position of authority does not make one the owner of people. For instance, in an “employer-employee” relationship, what belong to the first one are the professional time and the service of the latter. Every employer needs to learn to separate people from the service they provide him/her with. One should not take over the private time of another, nor have them habitually carry out tasks, which are not meant to be their responsibility and which happen to be against their will. Another example, which seems suitable for the purpose is when leadership is placed over a whole country. Its leaders are granted the right to make decisions, which will affect every citizen; still it doesn’t mean that the citizens belong to them, nor do those leaders have the authority to run the citizens’ lives. Having a clear understanding of the fact that people cannot be owned also helps to keep the emotional engagement in check, allowing one to let go of people respectfully whenever necessary. In order to prevent its abuse, the authority given to a leader should be acknowledged as a responsibility, rather than a privilege to be enjoyed. If any words deserve a quote on this subject, certainly the following words of Jesus do, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave of all.” According to these words the very life of a true leader is not their own; rather it belongs to his/her followers.
The above mentioned are barely a few out of the many valuable pieces of advice given over the years in order to improve one’s leadership ability. The long list of attributes, which make a good leader, does not have an end. Yet, there is one, which is definitely at the top of that list and which simply is too valuable not to be mentioned here. It never fails, and it simply is genuine humility… Every leader should bear in mind that there are many more unknown “territories” than the ones already known to him/her, and therefore should remain teachable and maintain a listening ear.