If anything goes bad, I
did it. If anything goes
semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really
good, then you did it.That’s all it
takes to get people to win football games for you!
—Paul “Bear” Bryant(1913 – 1983) was an American college football player and
coach. He was best known as the longtime head coach of the University of
Alabama football team. During his 25-year tenure as Alabama's head coach, he
amassed six national championships and thirteen conference championships. Upon
his retirement in 1982, he held the record for most wins as head coach in
collegiate football history with 32 wins.
Everyone promotes, praises, and rewards great leadership,
but it’s the workers who actually do the work and deliver the product or
service, and they’re followers.Over the
last twenty years, the types of workers have changed as the nature of work has
changed from manufacturing to knowledge based.These changes demand a change in how project teams interact.Leadership training attempts to teach
managers actions they should take to motivate teams of workers to accomplish a
desired result.It also teaches mangers
how to use group dynamics to achieve that result.But in order to be a leader you must
have willing followers.The followers
are people who (consciously or unconsciously) agree to let the leader make the
critical decisions and then follow those decisions to achieve the stated goal.
Most of us have seen projects that failed or fell short of
total success because team members didn't fully support the leader.The tendency is to blame the team leader
because he didn't motivate the team, but maybe the team members are to blame
because they wouldn’t follow the leader.
As a consulting project manager, Allen once managed a
cross-functional team for a client company.Two of the team members worked for the same consulting firm I did; the
other five members of the team worked for other consulting firms.These five team members approached the
project meetings as if they were the general project manager rather than
subcontractors.Some of them believed
their company should have been hired to manage the total project, but most of
them just never learned to follow, and the entire project was hindered because
of this.Eventually, the project was
completed, but it was a lot harder than it needed to be.Henry Ford said, "Asking ‘who ought to
be the boss’ is like asking ‘who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?’Obviously, the man who can sing
tenor."In the same way, at some point
the people doing the work must agree on “who can sing tenor” and lead them!
Teams are really about the division of labor.Most managers give lip service to this
concept, but they never really understand it.For the typical worker, the division of labor means that he does this
part of the work; others do another part of the work; a product or service is
created and then I get paid!For
the typical manager, the division of labor means that this worker does that
part of the work; others do another part of the work; a product or service is
created and then I look good!But
for the great leader, the division of labor means that he removes most of the
obstacles while this worker does that part of the work; others do another part
of the work; the product or service is created and everyone succeeds!Scott Adams, the creator of the satirical
business cartoon Dilbert™, said, “I’m slowly becoming a convert to the
principle that you can’t motivate people to do things; you can only
de-motivate them.The primary job of
the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles.”
Most businesses are organized as hierarchies.The people at the top supervise those at the
bottom, and the people at the bottom try to please those at the top.In the hierarchy organization, workers are
categorized as non-skilled, skilled, professionals, or managers.Workers follow because that's their place in the
chain of command.But as the nature
of work changes and requires higher education, workers are much more likely to
be categorized as professionals or managers.
Work today demands educated workers and those workers are
more likely to understand the entire scope of the work as well as many of the
other job skills used to complete the work.Many workers today are more ambitious and aspire to be managers, so the
old style of management that says, do what I say because I told you, no
Because of the complex nature of knowledge-based work,
workers may have a deeper understanding of the details of the work than their
managers do.The higher a manager is
within an organization, the less likely he or she fully understands all the
intricate details of the work.So the
manager must rely on a team of experts for that level of understanding.Sometimes this causes political turf wars as
some knowledge-workers hoard their information or won’t cooperate with others
when they feel management decisions are wrong.Other times technical power is abused for personal advancement.In either case, the knowledge-worker has
never really learned to follow.
Good followership consists of giving our leaders the best of
our thinking on every subject and then executing his decisions with our full
support.Part of leadership is accepting
the team expert's advice and not giving directions that conflict with that
advice.Of course, sometimes the advice
is to spend $10,000 but the budget is only $5,000; good leadership will clearly
explain these constraints to the team.When these types of roadblocks occur, the team may not be able to
deliver and the project may not succeed; however, if the team understands the
constraints, they may be able to find creative ways to work around the
roadblocks in order to arrive at the destination.
Encouraging knowledge-workers to be willing participants
means giving ownership of ideas and goals to every team member.It’s hard for followers to support a leader
who doesn’t support them.An example of
good followership is being a passenger in a car.The passenger accepts that someone else is
driving and agrees not to grab the steering wheel.The passenger can advise the driver about
faster routes or dangers on the road, but they trust the driver to make the
right decisions and get them to their destination safely.But the passenger won’t get into a car in the
first place unless the driver agrees to take them where they want to
A good leader shows they believe in their team members by
trusting and supporting them as well as listening to and following their
advice.But when a leader decides not to
follow the team’s advice, he owes the team an explanation.On the other hand, good followers should give
the same support to their leaders that they would want from the other team
members.It’s hard for a leader to
support followers who won’t support them.This means that there are times when a leader must eliminate a problem
team member for the good of the whole team.Leaders must accept responsibility for a team’s failure, but the team
gets the credit for its success.Followers usually don't work very hard for a leader who blames the team
members for failures but gets all the credit for its success.
Being a good follower is a prerequisite to being a good
leader.Most of us will spend the
majority of our working careers in followership positions.Constantly second-guessing the leader makes
his or her job one-hundred-times harder.By working for an organization, you’re willing to get into the car and
allow someone else to drive.So
constantly asking, “are we there yet?” only makes the ride miserable.
Think back on the team experiences you had in school or work
that were not very good.More than likely,
there were team members who didn’t want to cooperate with others making the
project harder than it had to be.You
may have been one of the unlucky few that had to pick up the slack for those
uncooperative team members.
Now think back on the team experiences you had in school or
work that achieved outstanding results.Did the team seem to function as efficiently and effectively as a Swiss
watch?Remember how great it felt when
your team was able to effectively produce something?The cooperation in the team more than likely
was due to good followership.By being a
good follower, you too could help your team achieve phenomenal results.
Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.
—Dr. Warren G. Bennis (MIT, Harvard, Boston, and USC Distinguished Professor and author of over 25 books on leadership)
Management can be defined as exerting control over others by making others submissive to our authority, discipline, or persuasion.Leadership can be defined as showing the way by conducting, escorting, directing, or going in advance.
Management is coercive and manipulative whereas leadership is conducive and persuasive.One key difference between leading and managing is viewing people who report to us as colleagues rather than subordinates.Managers typically coerce employees into following them because it’s a job requirement, whereas leaders inspire employees to follow them because they infuse them with the business vision.
Management could be analogous to the carrot and the stick approach of driving a stubborn ass.That is, rewards and punishments are used to coerce people into doing what you want them to do.Leadership could be analogous to a harbor pilot guiding a large ship safely into port.That is, the captain of the ship could do the job, but since he is not familiar with the underwater hazards that could ground his ship on a sandbar, he lets the harbor pilot lead the way.Management generally is shortsighted; it looks at today, this week, this month, or at the most, this quarter.Leadership generally considers both the short-term and long-term affects of its business decisions.
Lead and inspire people.Don't try to manage and manipulate people.Inventories can be managed but people must be led. —H. Ross Perot
Ideally, professional managers should look at their job as managing things but leading people.We can manage budgets, schedules, inventories, logistics, equipment, or real estate, but we must lead people.Of course, in the real world there is no such thing as a pure manager or a pure leader; it’s almost always a mixture of both styles. Generally we find that the more hierarchal the workplace the more it leans toward management, whereas the less formal the chain of command the more it leans toward leadership.
In organizations that prize managers over leaders, managers are dependent on their subordinates following orders.At the subordinate’s level, supervisors are often viewed as demanding taskmasters who can never be satisfied.Any improvements will automatically become the new minimum standard.At the supervisor’s level, colleagues are often viewed as competitors and their managers are viewed as a superior who must be satisfied at any cost.Consequently, any failure by the workers and supervisors can spell disaster for the manager.
In an organization that prizes leaders over managers, colleagues are willing to help one another succeed because they understand that everyone ultimately benefits.Generally speaking, it’s much more satisfying to work with willing followers than to work with people who have to be coerced into compliance.Effective leaders build the trust of their subordinates by acting in a way that benefits the employee and the company.Once the subordinate can trust the leader, then and only then, the employee will make a superior effort for that leader.
From a leader’s perspective, loving their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12.31) means showing the same love and respect to their employees as they would show to their families and friends.Leaders empathize with their employees by putting themselves in their shoes. If a leader wouldn’t tolerate a dysfunctional working environment, he doesn’t expect his employees to tolerate it either.These help the leader build an effective team. In fact, being a good leader is not much different than being a good spouse or a good parent.
The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.—Walter Lippmann, newspaper columnist
Truly great leaders build good and effective teams, and Jesus Christ epitomizes the ideal of a truly great leader.His goal was to save the human race and bring The Kingdom of God into the world.The Kingdom of God is not just a metaphor for a perfect world; it’s God’s Spiritual Kingdom here on earth where his followers (practicing Christians) help bring faith, hope, love, kindness, forgiveness, justice, and peace to a lost world.
In order to bring the Kingdom of God into the world, Jesus first built a team of loyal followers—his twelve disciples.During his three-year ministry, he trained, coached, and mentored his team of disciples in order to prepare them to carry on his work after he was gone.They, in turn, would train, coach, and mentor their replacements (the future leaders of the Church).Leadership, according to Jesus, is based on love, and it is demonstrated in serving others: this is called servant leadership.Jesus said in Matthew 20.25-28 (NIV):
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.Not so with you.Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
In Mark 9.33-35 (NIV) an incident is told about Jesus’ disciples arguing who would be the greatest in The Kingdom of God, and Jesus is quoted as saying, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”Latter in John 13.4-17 (excerpts, NIV) a humbling incident is told about Jesus’ style of leadership:
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.“You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am.Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him.Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus taught that in order to be a truly effective leader, a person must become a servant.This concept of servitude embodies the law of love that Jesus taught his followers to live by—putting the needs of others ahead of our own.
Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.—Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
The Apostle Paul started dozens of churches on his missionary journeys and appointed leaders for them.After leaving them, he wrote them encouraging letters and gave them practical advice.In his first letter to the Bishop Timothy 3.2-10 (excerpts, NIV), he described specific qualities church leaders should have:
Now [a leader] must be above reproach…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect…He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace…[they should be] men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
Character, integrity, and honor, according to St. Paul, are vitally important for effective leadership.It’s very hard for employees to follow a leader they don’t admire and respect.There’s a big difference between being popular and being respected.A leader doesn’t have to be liked by his followers, but he does have to earn their respect in order to effectively lead them.A good leader earns the respect of his followers by his moral, ethical, honest, fair, and consistent behavior at work as well as outside of work.
In order to rule nations, a man must first learn to rule himself. —Confucius
You don’t have to be in a position or authority to lead others.In fact, informal leaders are often times more effective in leading a team of workers than the formal supervisor or manager…and informal leaders have no power.On the other hand, supervisors and managers, more often than not, rely on their position power to coerce others into doing what they want.Managing by fear and intimidation is usually effective in the short-term, but will inevitably fail in the long-term.History has proven this.
So if you want to be a good leader first start by learning to lead yourself. Learn to be self-disciplined and temperate in everything you do and say. Secondly, learn to lead your family through love, service, and self-sacrifice. Work hard on your marriage and family relationships to make them the best they can possibly be. And then and only then finally learn to lead others outside your immeadiate family by the same principals of service and self-sacrifice.
I get to meet a lot of famous and interesting people in my job, but few have had more influence on me than Dr. Michael Schluter, the social thinker, social entrepreneur and founder of Britain's Relationships Foundation.
They say genius is being the first person to say the obvious. If so, Schluter is one. I'm sure Socrates or Aristotle beat him to it, but in our time Schluter is the first to forcefully remind us of something we all know: the importance of our human relationships. We are, above all, social animals. After we have secured our physical survival, the most important thing in each of our lives is our relationships: with friends, neighbors, workmates and, above all, with our families - our parents, siblings, spouse and children.
Even if we've avoided speaking to them for years, even if they're dead and gone, we can't stop thinking about them. If we have cut ourselves off from our family, be sure we've sought to fill the vacuum with other relationships. Take away all our relationships and who would have much reason to keep living?
So much for stating the obvious. But here's Schluter's simple, unarguably telling point: if our relationships are so fundamental to our well-being, why do we keep forgetting to take account of them in our strivings? Wouldn't we be better off if we got into the habit of viewing all our endeavors through a lens that focused on their implications for our relationships?
How often do divorce lawyers advise people to avoid all attempts at reconciliation with their estranged spouse for fear of weakening their legal position? How often do doctors treat physical symptoms that are not what's really troubling their patient?
How often do politicians loudly proclaim their support for the family, then consider 101 policy proposals without a thought as to their implications for people's relationships? As for economists, their model is so narrowly focused on the individual that they become oblivious to the potential effects of the policies they advocate on the relationships that sustain all individuals. The truth is that much of our ever-increasing material affluence over the past 200 years has been achieved at the expense of our relationships - by making the workings of the economy ever bigger, more complex and impersonal. And by encouraging economic transactions between people who have never met, let alone had a relationship.
Back to Schluter's insistent reminder: aren't we paying a price for ignoring the relational implications of all this? Wouldn't we be better off if we put the protection and promotion of our relationships back into the formula? So far have we strayed from recognizing the primacy of our relationships that the proposals of the mild-mannered, respectable, God-fearing Schluter sound positively radical.
About 150 years ago the invention of the limited-liability company allowed people with money to invest to become owners of companies without taking any part in their management. The development of stock exchanges allowed people to buy and sell their shares in a company as easily and often as they liked. From these innovations came the huge corporations that dominate the economy today.
Economists see them as milestones on our path to prosperity. Schluter sees the downside. So last month in troubled Britain he and a colleague, Jonathan Rushworth, launched the plan ''Transforming Capitalism from Within: a relational approach to the purpose, performance and assessment of companies''.
He proposes that enlightened companies submit themselves to the discipline of a 10-step ''relational business charter''. Step one is for a company to include in its articles of association its goal of becoming a profitable and sustainable business for the benefit of ALL its stakeholders - owners, directors, managers, employees, suppliers, customers and the wider society.
Step two is to promote dialogue between the stakeholders, preferably through regular, face-to-face meetings. Step three seeks to reduce ''relational distance'' between shareholders and employees and other stakeholders by promoting share ownership by named individuals and family trusts rather than institutional investors such as pension funds.
The goal could be 25 per cent direct ownership, pursued partly by encouraging employees to own shares. Ideally, a growing proportion of shareholders will live close to the company's main base.
Next, to achieve commitment, involvement and responsibility by shareholders, relational firms should encourage long-term ownership, perhaps by issuing additional shares to those who hold their shares for long periods. Step five is for companies to help their employees achieve work-life balance by minimizing long working hours and work at unsociable hours (including weekends) wherever possible.
These things have a direct effect on the families of employees, particularly if the employee will not be present to share the bringing up of children.
Then firms will seek to respect the dignity of all employees by minimizing remuneration differentials within the business. A ratio of 20:1 between top and bottom would be a good benchmark.
Relational companies will treat their suppliers fairly and with respect, paying them promptly and giving them support to develop their businesses.
Relational companies will treat their customers and the local community fairly, respecting their concerns about reasonable payment terms and adequate service.
Step nine involves companies protecting their business and stakeholders by minimizing the risk of financial instability, limiting their ''gearing'' - ratio of borrowings to shareholders' funds.
Finally, relational companies will fulfill their obligations to the wider society by paying a reasonable proportion of profits in tax in the country where those profits were earned and spending a reasonable proportion of profits on corporate social responsibility.
The musings of a hopeless dreamer? I think our companies' present ruthless pursuit of profit at any cost is an excess that can't last. Schluter is a prophet pointing the way back to more sensible capitalism.
The famous U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do… the hard part is doing it!” Likewise, the answer to most business problems is usually obvious as well.
Consider this – when was the last time you were really stumped for a solution to a problem? In most cases, the hardest things about solving the problem were the obstacles of personalities, politics, or cost. Taken together, these obstacles usually make the obvious solution very hard if not impossible to implement. These are failures of an organization’s values, guiding principles, and ethics.
Twenty years ago, my elderly mother came to live with me due to her declining health. She sold her home and hired a moving company to move her furniture and transport her car via trailer from New England to Virginia (primarily to minimize the mileage). When the moving van and car arrived, it was obvious that the car had not been transported but driven instead. When questioned, the driver admitted that they had driven the car and not transported it as they had been contracted to do.
When I called the moving company’s main office to complain, the representative asked what I wanted them to do about it. My only reply was “What would you expect someone to do if it was your mother!” Shortly thereafter, the driver came back to tell us that they were refunding the cost of transporting the car.
When a customer calls about a problem with your product or service. You generally know right off hand what the right thing to do is: either fix it, replace it, or refund their money. But company management may complain that “if we fix every problem for every customer then how are we supposed to make a profit?” Well, if your company’s product or service has so many customer problems that fixing them impacts profits, then fix the product or service! It ain’t rocket science!
If the only reason not to do it just like you would for your mother is the cost to the company, where do you think the savings to the company is coming from? It’s coming from your customer’s wallet. And if it’s not fair to your mother, what makes it fair to your customer?
The customer’s complaints (whether you like it or not) are a part of your company’s quality control process. If you’re a proactive company, then you’ll have worked out all the bugs before they even became an issue with your customer. Unfortunately in their rush for quick profits, many companies out there let their customer’s do all the beta testing for them.
One of the unintended consequences of making unethical or dishonest decisions in dealing with your customers is the message it sends to your employees: that you’ll mistreat them the same way whenever you think its in your best interest to do so. If you don’t care about your customers, then how can you expect your employees to care about them or the company for that matter?
So here are some suggestions for creating an environment where people just do the right thing:
If a customer’s product or service failed the answer is simple and obvious; either fix it, replace it, or give them their money back. If the customer broke it, then don’t!
Make sure your corporate policies, organizational politics, management personalities, and cost focus don’t interfere with the obvious solutions to most customer problems.
Generally speaking, if you have to ask yourself if what you are planning to do is the right thing, then it probably isn’t!
When deciding a course of action, the best question you can ask yourself is, “Would I do it this way if I were doing this for my mother?”
Obviously, no company or individual can live anywhere near perfection, but the real world test is how hard the company or individual decision maker is trying to do the right thing, and how quickly they’re trying to fairly resolve problems. Remember, doing the right thing ain’t rocket science!
- Allen Laudenslager is a semi-retired technical writer and former defense industry manager and writer on management and business practices.
Bryan Neva, Sr. is an electrical engineer with an MBA and an extensive background in customer field support who writes on improving management practices.
“Noblesse Oblige” is an old French phrase that literally translates as “nobility obligates.” It means that those who have power and authority, or who are privileged, rich or famous have a moral responsibility to display honorable, charitable, and exemplary behavior towards those less fortunate or to those dependent on them.
In other words, whoever claims to be noble must conduct themselves nobly. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. summed it up nicely when he said: every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.
The idea of “Noblesse Oblige” was created out of enlightened self-interest. The nobility had serfs who were dependent on them for land to farm, a place to live and protection from bandits. In medieval times all the land belonged to the nobility; the enlightened noble recognized that while he owned the land, without someone to plant and harvest the noble had no income. Seeing to the wellbeing of his serfs was his “noble obligation.”
The good old days of companies treating their employees as their most valuable assets have been set aside in favor of expecting them to work harder for the same pay and fewer benefits. In place of rewards they’re told they should be glad they still have a job. Corporate management has developed an entitlement mentality (like the old French nobility) by remembering their privileges (power, prestige, perks, and pay) but forgetting their obligations to their employees. So what does this mean for you?
Loyalty always starts with the person who has the power and authority and is earned not given. Power is the ability to grant or withhold rewards, and authority is the power to influence the behavior of a person with less power. And there’s no authority without a counterbalancing responsibility.
Some use their power and authority altruistically; unfortunately, many others use it capriciously or unfairly. Lord John Acton (1834—1902, British historian and moralist) famously wrote: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So what tends to happen is that those in power begin to believe their own press releases and act as if their power is a natural right and their authority is to be unquestioned. After all, they must be right or they wouldn’t have been granted the authority in the first place, right?
The key to avoiding falling into the entitlement trap is simply by learning a little good ol’ fashioned humility. Start by walking over to your company’s customer service center and imagine there’s no one there to answer the phones, to take orders or to solve problems. You’re not going to sell anything.
Next, walk down to your company’s shipping and receiving department and watch the employees loading and unloading trucks. Now close your eyes and pretend that those workers aren’t there… your products are just sitting on the docks and the trucks are not getting loaded. How much money will you make if you don’t ship your products to customers?
It’s easy to think of all these workers as not being important because almost anyone could do these types of jobs. Answering the phones or loading and unloading trucks are cheap but also very critical. In other words, the labor costs are inexpensive but the work is valuable.
Now extrapolate these examples out to your entire organization. How much value are all your other employees contributing to your long-term success? Who really produces and who is overhead? Enlightened self-interest should tell you that without workers you’d have no income.
So while you may not be willing to pay much for a person working in customer service or shipping and receiving, enlightened self-interest should tell you that a relatively low paid employee might be critical to your long-term success and you should begin to treat that worker with the respect their contribution, not their cost, deserves.
- Allen Laudenslager is retired technical writer, defense industry manager, businessman, and Army veteran. He writes on management, business practices, and ethics. He currently lives in Seattle, WA
- Bryan Neva, Sr. is an electronics engineer with an MBA and has over 20 years of engineering, business management, and direct customer handling experience. He’s a Navy veteran and has worked in the defense, medical device and aerospace industries. He currently lives with his wife in Southern California.