I’m participating in a four-week online course at present to help me be a better writer and book author. During one of the lectures today the presenter said something that really gave me the proverbial head-bop — so much so, I had to rewind the recording and capture again what he said.
“Do you write to BE someone or do you write to DO something?” His point being that some authors write to be famous and some authors write to help others. I’d like to think I write to help people — specifically to help people at work.
This set me thinking about two types of leaders I’ve observed in the workplace — those who are all about themselves and, conversely, those who are all about others.
The worst leaders I’ve worked for (as an employee) and with (doing what we do as Newleaf Training and Development) are just so full of themselves.
Their compass is permanently set to self. Such leaders lord it over others and are much more interested in furthering their own career than bringing out the best of their team. They think independently even in interdependent circumstances. Their three favorite people are Me, Myself and I.
Such poor leaders tend to work long hours — often because they don’t trust others and they get their identity from their own busy-ness and self-importance. Sadly, such leaders often have a track record of broken and bruised relationships around them, also in their personal lives, due to their own selfishness.
It’s often said, “What you focus on expands,” and when such people focus on self for so long, that’s what grows — meanwhile effective and genuine personal and professional relationships fall by the wayside like seeds thrown on rocky soil. As time marches on such leaders find themselves in their own prison cell, unaware they locked the door from the inside and no longer know where the key is.
Conversely, I have observed and had the honor of working with, and for, leaders who want to DO something rather than BE someone. Money is not their god. Power is not an idol they worship. They are driven, but they’re driven toward excellence. Such leaders want to solve problems for customers; create solutions that don’t yet exist and bring out the best of their team.
They speak interdependently even when the organization wants to recognize them independently. Their three favorite groups are Us, We and Together.
I worked with such a leader once and one of his measures of true success was the happiness and whole-life satisfaction of his direct reports. I was shocked when during my first performance review he asked me how things were at home — how Gaynor and the children were.
He asked what he could do to better serve me. He wanted to know my hopes and concerns in the role I was in. He wanted to understand how he could use his explicit, formal authority to clear the path so that I could be effective and efficient in my present job.
He wanted to know how he could help me move toward my next role in two to three years. In fact, that’s exactly what he did, as he was instrumental in helping me move within the organization to come to the USA only two years after first being hired by him in the U.K. for the same company.
I knew intuitively he cared about each of his direct reports as if we were his own children and because of that, we each worked incredibly well for him and for each other. We wanted to please him as our rhetorical workplace father. We were good workplace family.
So, my encouragement to you is to focus your attention on DOING something rather than BEING someone. Fame is fleeting. Ego is just an acronym of “Edging Goodness Out.” Bad leaders are only remembered for how bad they were. Life is short and our working lives are even shorter.
Turn the organizational pyramid upside down and see yourself as being of service to others. If you’ve been given that noble, honorable responsibility to supervise the work of others; manage process and procedures or lead people — DO it all to best of your ability and you’ll find as a by-product you’ll BE someone worth following and a nicer person to be around at home.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].