I couldn’t tell you how many books, articles, or missives I’ve read that have to do with that esteemed thing we call ‘LEADERSHIP’. Entire degrees are written and pitched on leadership - I have a couple myself, disguised as management-based stuff.
Thousands of approaches to leadership must exist out there in the world, sometimes in contradictory ways. Some of the more prevalent leadership styles today are things such as ‘transitional’, ‘assertive’, ‘situational’ and ‘authoritative’. I’m sure, at some point in my life, I’ve studied - and possibly even practiced - most of these styles myself.
But now, I am older and more experienced. I’ve seen the ways these leadership theories work, or don’t work. I’ve encountered people who live by certain theories and expect others (like me) to live by them too. I generally ignore those kinds of requests. Leadership is a complicated puzzle and, for the most part, a difficult thing to make work.
Thus, my tried and true method: work hard, be dedicated to the purpose, and treat people fairly. Right now, in my current spot, I’ve got about 25 direct reports. That’s way too many to practice any of those complicated leadership theories. If I did that, all I’d be doing would be going through leadership puzzle pieces.
I think at one time my tried and true method was ‘management by wandering around’. I hear that Abraham Lincoln practiced this theory by dropping in on Army troops in the early American Civil War. I suppose if I had to claim a type of management/leadership theory, it would be this wandering around thing. But, I’d like to think my method is better, at least for me.
Simple is better
I think I’m a pretty good leader. I think of others often, assigning people to projects I hope will challenge them and let their strengths come through. But not everything in leadership is specifically work related. Just this morning I wandered through one of my areas and opened up conversations about plants, pets, and the weekend. I think we had good conversations. This kind of conversation opened communications between members of the team. Frankly, we had a good time. I truly enjoyed listening to their words.
Now, just a side line, here: sometimes, you have to defer to a literal form of leadership. For example, when dealing with investigatory situations, I might have to stick strictly to business, digging into the facts. And, yes, occasionally I might have to pursue the firing of an employee. But, even then, I can still treat them with respect.
Just be nice
Back to my original message. Just be nice. Listen to people. Pursue solutions to their problems. Stand up for them in times of disagreement. Stand up for their decisions (then, if their ways are not all that great, have a friendly chat later). Most of our businesses don’t deal with life and death. Yes, safety is an all-around concern, but generally, life and death is not. Therefore, support their decisions (no one will die) and only correct when it is absolutely necessary.
Thanks for listening. “I go up to the stone wall for a friendly visit.” Robert Frost