I was sitting and talking with a friend the other day, and I was perplexed to listen to her describe her interactions with her upper management. My friend has a fancy title and she tries hard to do what is needed for her team, but she has found it difficult to deal with some of the issues she is having in her building. Whenever she tries to ask for help, or expresses her frustrations to her boss with a fancy title, all she gets is, “That’s nice. I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” or, “Do what you're told and work with what you’ve been given.” I also have to mention that her boss is rarely seen, and when he calls manager meetings, he refuses to listen to the needs of his managers and expects everything to be done his way.
It still amazes me the stories I hear of individuals who are in leadership positions not doing any kind of leading. Either they are absent from the team, closed minded to new ideas, too arrogant to admit they are wrong, or they sit behind a desk and expect people to just fall in line. I cannot stress enough the importance of leadership investing in their team, being present, staying humble, and most importantly leading by example. If you are someone who has a fancy title, this blog is for you.
I want you to ask yourself, "What is the most important part of my job?" If your position has any kind of title, I am going to assume the answer is to lead your team. Now I want you to ask yourself, "How am I making my team a priority?". If you struggle answering this question, you're a person with a title and nothing more. If your answer is superficial, such as I show up occasionally and give nice bonuses, then you are a person with a title and nothing more. If your answer can be summarized by selfless acts of service, investing in your people, and giving of your time to help your people succeed, then you are a leader that just happens to have a title.
Your job as a leader is to lead. That may sound like a dumb statement, but sadly, it’s that dumb statement that many leaders still don’t follow. Leading people means you are listening, sacrificing your time, engaging with your team, being a part of what’s happening, providing resources that will help your team become even more successful, and much more. Leading is not done from behind a desk. It is not done apathetically. Leading is not a title or position. It is about the people. It is ALWAYS about the people. As Jocko Willink once said, “The mission is a top priority, but it is not THE top priority. People come first.” If you do not engage, support, invest in, and speak life into your team, then there is no leadership taking place. People come first.
If your people come to you expressing their frustrations or need for resources to make their job better, then it is your job to do whatever you can to meet the needs of your people. If all you do is give lip service, or if your answer is to "suck it up and deal with it", then you're not a leader. You're just someone with a fancy title that can't lead. You are creating more problems by not engage with your team, not problem solving with your team, and/or not helping your team in the areas that they are struggling most. Your job as a leader is to invest into what matters most…your team. You need to listen and act on the needs and requests of your team. Now, I understand that not everything can be acted on, but it is your job to give them assurance that you hear them and are working to meet their needs.
I can't express enough, never forget, just because you have some special, fancy title, it doesn't make you a leader. Your actions determine if you are a leader. However, the actions you take will determine your effectiveness as a leader. You must always remember, your people come first. Listen to them, support them, and do what it takes to help your team succeed. Don't lead from behind a desk. Don't give lip service. Engage with your team and lead.
As always, stay humble and serve well!