Leadership comes with some privileges, but mostly it comes with lots of responsibility. As a matter of fact, any privilege that a leader is afforded should be tied very closely to that responsibility. If a leader feels privileged because the he or she thinks that they are better than his or her followers, the danger light should come on and stay on until this conflict is rectified. For example, if as a leader you have the services of an assistant because it helps you have more time for your followers, or more time to earn revenue which in the end benefits your followers, this is a good use of your resources, and it’s justified. On the other hand, if you misuse your assistant, or any one of your followers, because you don’t want to deal with the negative aspects of your work, your actions are neither justified or a wise use of resources.
Misusing human or any other type of resource is not a good leadership skill.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone reading this article would be guilty of such an abuse of leadership power. However, what might be an issue is the justification of actions that make perfect sense to you because they help you to move the mission of your company or organization forward, but they make no sense to your followers. It’s important for leaders to remember that the perception of your followers is their reality. If your followers are consistently saying a particular thing about the way that you lead, whether you perceive it to be the truth or not doesn’t matter. It is the way that your leadership has made them feel.
Never has the axiom, perception is reality, been more true than in leadership situations.
This is a hard lesson and a tough balancing act. Especially for new leaders and newly promoted leaders. While you thought that you properly greeted everyone when you walked into the office, before you closed your door so that you could work through the pile of papers with deadlines near and passed, what your followers may have perceived is that you rushed into the space and disappeared behind a closed door not really caring about the struggles that they are facing to get their jobs done. Even though your actions are justified, your followers may be feeling neglected, and most times they aren’t going to come and tell you how they feel. Instead they will talk among themselves, and create a rift in your department. You can say that you have an open door policy all you want, but until your followers feel that you have such a policy, it doesn’t exist.
I’d like to be able to say, “This isn’t your fault, and let the chips fall where they may.” But, as the leader, whether it’s fair or not is irrelevant, make no mistake, it is your fault.
Here are five ways you can minimize the negative feelings that may come from your innocent actions:
- Don’t become defensive when word gets back to you that some innocent action that you have taken has caused someone to feel a way that you did not intend.
- Be willing to take a long hard look at the behavior, and if the situation allows for change, be willing to make a change so that you can change the perceptions of your followers.
- Ask your followers what they need from you to feel supported in their work, and if appropriate and within your power, do it!
- Join with your staff in completing a 360 degree assessment of your leadership skills. This will provide you with a picture of what your followers are thinking and feeling…..the things that they won’t say to you directly.
- And most importantly, recognize that leadership is a journey, not a destination. On this journey, you will be constantly looking at the woman or man in your mirror and becoming more acquainted with who you are verses who people think you are.
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