This really isn’t rocket science and, although the Internet is filled with self- help articles and all manner of amazing insights, being a good leader is pretty straightforward. So, no sugar coating here or pretending we have some new breakthrough in personal achievement that will magically transform you. There is no magic pill, only basic common sense behaviours and attitudes about good leadership that are worth the reminder.
Let’s begin by putting this oldie but goldie out there - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This really is at the heart of EVERY successful relationship whether between bosses and employees, friends, relatives or spouses, and we all actually know this.
Think back to your childhood for a minute. Were you ever yelled at, talked down to or even smacked by your parents or teachers? If so, no matter how they justified it to you, you knew it wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, and it really didn’t make you change your attitude because anything that made you feel that bad couldn’t possibly be good. Maybe you were so scared, you towed the line for a while but you sure didn’t go out of your way to become a new and improved child. So, the question is this -why would it be any different in a purely business environment? Well, it wouldn’t be.
Everyone is human and everyone has a bad day (or two or ten) but unless you studied at The School for Jerks, you’re probably a pretty great person and would rather get along with others than not. Well, this is key to good leadership. Being a good leader doesn’t mean flexing your muscle like some 3rd world country dictator; it’s recognizing the different personalities in the room and responding to each with respect, identifying and developing the strengths and talents each person brings to the table, and treating each person like a professional (no pointing fingers and stomping up and down in anger). And, hey! You don’t even have to like someone a whole lot (not even very much) as long as you recognize and appreciate the skills they offer your company. Focus on that – you don’t have to invite them to your wedding (or funeral for that matter).
Oh, it is highly recommended that, from time to time, when you really are faced with insanity that isn’t of your own making, that you use the tried and true method of counting to 10. That stops you from hitting your kid (at home insanity) and your employee or boss (workplace insanity) – both a very good thing. Human beings have built into them a desire to help others and to do their best. When they don’t, it’s simply because something somewhere went wrong – a misfiring of wires, if you will. So, try not to short circuit those wires - that means trying to keep your stress level to a minimum (no, that wasn’t a joke).
A positive approach to problems and a willingness to ask for suggestions from others (like those employees you don’t pay nearly enough) doesn’t show a weakness in leadership- quite the opposite, in fact. When you listen to other opinions, you show you value and respect that person and you admit that you are human and, therefore, NOT perfect. Duh! You think others can’t see this themselves? No amount of “tough guy” and “I’m the boss and I know better” attitude is going to fool anybody. Offer a carrot (or chocolate or even just a smile) and get twice as much in return. Win-win. By the way, both bosses and employees should occasionally pay a compliment to the “other”- we all like to be told we’re not idiots (No, no, no. We all like to be told we’ve done something right). As well, if you notice a problem developing, nip it in the bud. If you have a good relationship with your boss/employee, you will be able to approach him/her much more easily and deal with the issue without any ill will(ok- maybe not entirely true but you won’t be “takin’ it outside”).
Newsflash-when you get super stressed, your brain does not function well. You need to remember that things will get done and if there is co-operation in the workplace, it will get done sooner and better with everyone having the same goal in sight. Oh, oh, oh- a word about mistakes and forgiveness. Mistakes will happen. Repeat 3 times. If it is an honest mistake, forgive it. If it occurs too often, find out why (without turning into a maniac) and fix it, and if it’s on purpose- “Fired!”! (Ok, maybe not until you know why- there might have been a good reason for this, too. Possibly.).
So, here’s the take-away about leadership in the workplace. Whether you are an owner, a boss, or an employee, you can be a leader. Leaders model what they know at the core of their being is right. Respect, forgiveness, understanding, and co-operation never get old. Yes, there are numerous egos involved in the workplace, but everyone, absolutely everyone, responds to a smile, a positive word of encouragement, and understanding when something goes wrong. The person showing this kind of grace actually grows in the estimation of others and becomes a giant among men (and women, too, of course!). The final few words: good leaders make for good business.