It’s called Leadership, not Jerkship

(Re-posted from my newsletter, just because I like it…)

Just be nice

You can be a leader, or you can be a jerk. You can’t be both, no matter what you think, and no matter how hard you try. (note: I didn’t say you couldn’t be a “manager.” A business card doth not a leader make…)

Leadership requires vision, and the wherewithal to execute to that vision, convincing and motivating those following to do “more” (called “discretionary effort”) in support and pursuit of that leader’s vision.

Being a jerk is in direct opposition to that effort.

So, what’s a leader to do, assuming s/he wants to avoid jerkdom? This ain’t exactly rocket surgery, but here are a few tips…

1. Do Ask, Don’t Tell. Yes, DADT does leadership. You really can ask instead of barking out orders like a drill sergeant. Any employee not living under a rock for the last 50+ years doesn’t really believe that their boss’ question “Would you please do this for me?” has an option of “no” for an answer.

Same results for you, better results for the employee.

2. Show some love… No, not literally, Casanova, so calm your jets. But leaders, you’ve got to show – actively demonstrate – real compassion if you expect to develop the trust necessary for a positive employee relationship. I hate to use the tired cliché, “employees don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” but it’s true here.

Someone must look after the employees’ well-being and best interests. If not you, leader, they’ll simply turn to someone or something else.
Like a union. Or a chronic complainer/commiserator. Or your competitor.

3. Be nice. Those who know me know I’m not one of those soft, fluffy types. My leadership facilitation doesn’t include kooshie balls and plastic gumby figurines. But you’ll find if you just “act nice” with employees, good things will happen (and you may just enjoy your day a bit more, too).

In the movie “Roadhouse” (I’m old, I like movies, so shoot me…), Patrick Swayze plays Dalton, a “Cooler” – sort of a bouncer’s bouncer – in a rough bar. When asked by some of his underling bouncer staff about what they should do when trouble erupts, he tells them simply to “be nice.”
“Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” Good advice.

I have this client (my typical story-starter), and I’m facilitating some of their teams, simply to help them realize the added benefits of working really well together toward common goals. This team’s leader is a fairly senior manager, and he mentioned to me that one of his frontline leaders wasn’t all that enthused about attending our sessions.

In fact, this leader told him that he “don’t need no Dr. Phil telling me to make nice with my employees.”

My simple question to that frontline leader (never mind the dubious-but-cool reference to Dr. Phil) would be: I’m not sure about that… do you??

Thanks, Don.

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

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