Leading a large team of leaders exposed me to a lot of unanticipated reactions and behaviours. At the initial phase, the struggle was with acceptance and then grew to sustenance. The dirty job of standing strong and being persistent to see that vision come to live is where the work lies.
If you have ever led a team of highly cerebral and effective people who seek to first understand before they follow, then I’m sure you are not a novice when it comes to such reactions. Preparing your first speech to address the team with so much effort just to be accepted by the team. Being overly nice the first week you meet the team that you tolerate what you naturally wouldn’t. The desire to be accepted by our teams influence our actions. After all, how effective will you be if you have a team that doesn’t accept you as their leader?
I had made enormous mistakes at the beginning of my journey as I assumed that the secret of good leadership was to be likable. That if I could get them to like me well enough, I’d get the best out of them soon enough. I was overly concerned with the idea of people liking me that I began to compromise standards by accommodating inefficiencies just so I don’t ruffle feathers.
As a leader, your first responsibility is to the vision. Vision should be the springboard for every decision and action. Being liked at the expense of vision should be handled as treason. Craig Groeschel in his podcast -8 habits of great leaders Part 1, said, “A leader will be faced with the option of choosing the easy wrong or the hard right. Many leaders choose what is easy but great leaders ask what is right…. The difference between where you are and where you could be are the painful decisions you are avoiding”. I strongly recommend you go listen to that podcast.
You have to weigh the option of being liked with the purpose of fulfilling vision, then choose the hard right. A good leader makes hard decisions no one else is bold enough to make just because he knows it is the right thing to do. Sticking to the vision can sometimes be the dirty job leaders have to do. A leader lives above sentiments. Sentiments are healthy until they become a compromise to the achievement of the vision. Rewarding based on sentiments and not performance is a trap most leaders fall into- “She is a good girl, but with consistent performance below average”. However, you reward her with continuity because she is “a good girl”.
They may hate you because of your commitment to the vision. If you haven’t found something worth being hated for, then you have no reason to be liked. As a leader, your ability to stay true to the vision and inspire others to do the same is a dirty job you have to learn.
Don’t get me wrong, this conversation isn’t about turning you into a monster your team dread. Or you becoming undesirable to keep company. There is a balance to every doctrine.
Guidelines for striking a balance:
Here are a few simple guides to help strike a balance.
1. Value: Focus on valuing people. This doesn’t guarantee a favorable response from them. Their response to that is not what you can control so if they respond favorably, good! It’s easier to determine how you respond to people than controlling how people respond to you. The proof of value you place on people is seen by the level of investment made in them. Don’t demand for a hand if you haven’t touched a heart. Your job as a leader is to value your team and in return, you get their heart.
2. Competence: Being able to deliver on one’s promise/word is the credibility of competence. This is both to the team and to the leader. Rewarding competence will foster trust and improve the general health of your team. Be more concerned about promoting competence than likeability. Loyalty isn’t achieved by getting people to like you but getting them to trust you.
Learn to respect people especially those you lead. The extent to which you respect your team will determine the general health of the team. Talking down on people is a negative way to inspire them to improve. Rather, show them the possibilities they can achieve if they do better. Sometimes, your behaviour may betray your intentions, however, you must seek ways to always reveal your true intentions in cases of misunderstanding. People will choose a leader who is honest enough over a leader who is always right.
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