Before leaving the workplace to become a full-time business owner, I used to hear absurd statements from so-called “leaders.” Here are two examples:
“I have (X number of people) working under me.”
“I have (X number of people) reporting to me.”
“Leader” may be the most butchered word used in the English language. It is abused and misused by those who have a desperate and dangerous need to feel important. They don’t realize that there’s a huge difference between a “leader” and a “manager.” The two are dramatically different concepts. A manager’s title on a business card does not guarantee leadership; it simply shows the outcome of a selection process where someone was picked to fill a role, to occupy a seat, to babysit adults. Managers manage collective bargaining agreements. A leader’s role is entirely different. Leadership requires heavy lifting of individuals and teams of humans.
If you believe you have people working under you, you are not a true leader. If you believe that people reporting to you makes you a true leader, you’re wrong. If you believe either statement, you have a desperate need to feel important without having to do the heavy lifting.
Years ago, I sat on a selection committee to hire a person for a high-ranking management position (essentially my own boss). At the end of the interviews, I failed all the candidates. In my opinion, none were qualified to LEAD. Not one candidate proved beyond reasonable doubt they were true leaders during the interview or through the information on their resume. Each one was preoccupied with proving they were a qualified manager.
The guy in charge went around the table and asked the panel to explain their scores and final decisions. I stated my honest opinion – none proved strong enough evidence that they were TRUE leaders. Actually, none proved that they could even be a manager. I suggested that we cast the net farther and continue the selection process until someone proved TRUE LEADRSHIP beyond reasonable doubt.
The guy in charge didn’t argue with my explanations. He agreed, but announced that, regardless, we had to pick someone today. “Instructions from his boss.” So, a person was hired. Didn’t last. WASTE OF TIME; time that could not be replayed. Wasted intellectual effort, wasted emotional effort. Waste that negatively affected countless people in the workplace. Shame on the “leader” who insisted the position be filled, despite the fact that not one candidate was qualified. Shame on everyone involved – blindly following along to fit the conventional thinking. This sad episode exceeded arrogance and ignorance.
Building a winning team in any field is not easy. In fact, it’s brutally difficult. But you have a moral obligation to bring out the very best in everyone. You can’t make excuses that it’s too hard, whine like a spoiled adolescent that your team won’t cooperate or you don’t have time to “fix it.” You have to make the tough calls. Those who don’t respond after every effort to bring out their best, have to be let go – cut – to protect the rest of the team. Those who do respond, have to be rewarded proportionately.
If you are not lifting every single day, if your team and each individual are not moving toward their full potential every single day, you are not a true leader. If you can’t do the heavy lifting required, vacate your leadership title.