I’m fascinated by the topic of leadership. It seems that everyone is an expert. I’m not quite sure about that though. I’m issuing a warning that you really need to be very selective in what and who you follow.
I have to say, as a young and inexperienced leader I believed that I could control the people who worked for me. What I have learned over the years is that I cannot control them, or for that matter make them do things that they do not want to do. Eventually, the over controlling and forcing will lead the best and brightest out the door. Then what you are left with are a bunch of followers. The old school leadership style of command and control, working 3,000 hours with restrictive structures, processes and systems does not help you retain the best and brightest talent.
Then came the soft approach of trying to keep your employees happy. We did this by launching people initiatives such as employer of choice, best places to work, company parties, etc. My key question is as a leader why would I want to make everyone happy? While some of this may be good and necessary, I do not think it leads to developing your best and brightest as future leaders.
A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled Stop Trying to Control People or Make Them Happy caught my attention. I really like rule #1 for helping managers get beyond the shackles of the hard and soft management approaches:
1. Understand what your people do: Start with a true understanding of what your people do and why they do it.
While I think this is excellent advice, in my opinion, there are a couple of items that have to come before this:
1. Understand yourself, what you do and more importantly why you do it.
2. Understand the organization you lead and why you are in business.
In other words, what is your organization’s WHY? WHY does your organization exist? and WHY do you want to lead it?
Start with this self-reflection and then move on to your people. This will give you a chance to create extremely high employee engagement. The type of engagement that will lead your organization and ensure you retain your best and brightest people…your future leaders.