BY THE TIME you get to the age of wanting to succeed in business or even start your own business, you’ve already experienced, virtually, every type of leadership there is. You may not realize it, but you’ve already decided what type of leader you are. The question now is whether or not the leader you are, is the leader you want to be.
Parents, teachers, older siblings, supervisors, police officers, military superiors, bosses—we’ve all had them for most, if not all, of our lives. Some were great—they pulled productivity and efficiency out of us by enabling and encouraging us. Some were harsh, and that was just what we needed. Others were easy-going, and maybe that was exactly what we needed. Different tactics work for different subordinates. Think for a moment—which ones worked for you? More importantly, which ones didn’t work for you? If you’re a leader in business, it’s not all about you—or at least it shouldn’t be.
You’re not the one doing all the work; your subordinates are. Your job as a leader is to empower them to be productive, and sometimes that might mean trying methods that may not have worked on you when you were a subordinate, but might work on them. Be smart about this, however. Nobody likes to be degraded or made to feel stupid or unappreciated, especially in front of others. Depending on your industry, a bit of “tough love” might work on your employees, but be very careful with it. Think long and hard about how you’re going to use it. In my organization, when it comes to tough love, I tend to work up to it. I see difficult people as a leadership challenge because you can’t just go around firing people; you’ll get a bad reputation as a manager and your superiors will doubt your ability to lead—which is the last thing you want. Nevertheless, sometimes people just don’t work out and that’s life in business. That’s another decision for another day.
Today, we’re thinking about what type of leader you should be to get the most out of your employees. Here’s a hint from history: tyrannical leaders never lasted long and their dethroning was usually a painful experience, so don’t start there. Analyze what types of people your employees are and what you can do to make them feel secure with your organization and supported by you. They need to feel motivated and guided by you. As such, a good start is to be present in their work and lead by example. Don’t micromanage them, however. Nothing stifles productivity like a pair of eyes constantly looking over your shoulder. Just try not to spend the entire day in your office with your door closed. Employees like to know that you are there with them. If they have to stay late to finish a big project, it would be good if you stayed, too; to show them that you are willing to go through the hard times with them. If you have other arrangements, leave a little early and come back with some coffee or something before you leave for the day.
A great rule to keep in mind when thinking about what kind of business leader you want to be, is to think about what kind of leader you would like to work for. The key is to think of yourself as your employee, not as your current self in a level of leadership working for an even higher leader. Put yourself in their shoes, on their level, and you will immediately be pointed in the right direction.