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One of my first jobs out of graduate school was at a psychiatric facility. I worked in the admissions department taking crisis calls and admitting new patients into the hospital. My immediate supervisor was good enough, but her boss? Well she was another story! I will refer to her as “Angie.” Angie was insecure and lacked basic people skills for the position. She yelled at people, grabbed things out of their hands, ignored us when she was upset, reprimanded employees (in front of others) who didn’t report to her, solicited validation from her direct reports, stomped around the office and almost never smiled.

Her style was “lead by intimidation,” you never knew what you were going to get. No one liked her and no one was following her. I believe if you are the leader and you have no followers, you’re just taking a walk. Angie was definitely taking a walk, but I’m not sure she knew where she was going. I’m not even sure she liked people. She had no vision for her team, no one trusted her, she didn’t offer to help unless it benefited her and if she cared for any of us, we never knew it.

Angie’s leadership (or lack thereof) exposes a profound truth: you can’t lead people unless you like people. People give you permission to be their leader and before they do that, they need to know you care about them. In fact, every follower has three implicit questions of their leader. Review these questions and ask yourself “How am I demonstrating this to the people I lead?”

1. Can you help me? No one ever advances to the top by themselves. There is always someone there who helps develop them and assist in the advancement of their career. People look to their leaders for development and help in advancing their careers too. As the leader, what are you doing to help advance the careers of the ones you lead?

2. Do you care about me? I don’t know anyone who wants to work for a person or company who doesn’t care about them. Folks want to work for someone who has a true interest in them as an individual. Take the time to interact with your team, get to know who they are, who their family is and how they feel cared for. You should know your team well enough to lead them in the way they want to be led. No doubt you’ve heard of the Golden Rule, but the Platinum Rule applies here: lead people in the way they need to be led.

3. Can I trust you? Trust is the foundation of the leader/follower relationship. Dr. Henry Cloud says that trust is like a brick wall that must be constructed brick by brick over a long period of time, but if it is breached, the wall comes crashing down and must be rebuilt brick by brick again over time. So, avoid things that destroy trust, they are often the unintentional things like not doing what you said you would do, not listening, not helping and not being authentic.

References: John Maxwell, The Five Levels of Leadership

 

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