You Remind Me Of Superman: Be A Leader, Not A Boss
“Would you rather be loved or feared?” Michael Scott, Regional Manager of the Scranton Branch of the Paper Company Dunder Mifflin, Inc., answered that age old question. His answer: “Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” Perfect.
Though Michael Scott is a fictional character played by actor Steve Carell on NBC’s The Office, the question he answered is a very real question that has dogged supervisors, managers and executives throughout the world. Everyone has their own opinions and, like most things in life, there is no exact perfect answer (except Michael Scott’s answer of course).
While there is no answer to the fear or love question, there are certain qualities that make you the kind of person people want to work with. These are some of the qualities that make you a leader of people, and not just a boss:
- Integrity. Since 2010, Superhero movies have grossed over $3.6 billion dollars. Why is that? Maybe people just want to see Superman explode things with his eyes. My theory is that people are drawn to heroes, and it is not just the cool superpowers. People want to see the good guy win and the bad guy lose (but not before the epic struggle where things get destroyed). Heck, maybe deep down inside, people probably can relate to the hero and see themselves as a hero. Each and every hero, whether it be Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman and even the Hulk, have at least one quality in common: integrity. They are innately honest and do the right thing. If you establish yourself as a person of integrity and live by that ideal, those that work with you or for you will follow suit. This is especially true if you work in a field that is filled with “moral ambiguity” and gray areas. If you maintain the highest standard of truth and honesty, you will position yourself as a moral compass for those trying to navigate their way through those gray areas.
- Communication. Who likes it when their friends, family or significant other acts sarcastic or in a passive-aggressive manner towards them? I certainly do not. If I do something wrong, tell me and I will fix it. How about when you do something right? Don’t you want someone to say “great job!”? I certainly do. Communicating with the members of your team is just as important as maintaining your integrity. That means telling them the good and the bad. Some managers are great at telling you when you mess up (and everyone messes up), but never tell you what a great job you are doing when you are doing a great job. It is important that you speak frankly and honestly with your team and let them know what they are doing well and what they are not doing well. What’s more, as people we sometimes forget that those that are close to us cannot read out minds. We have to set our expectations and communicate them clearly so everyone is on the same page. Whenever I meet with a new hire or team mate, I tell them upfront that I am excited to be working with them and I communicate what is expected of them. That way, you will never have to hear those dreaded words, “but I didn’t know you wanted me to do that.”
- Confidence. In the same way our canine companions can sense fear, human beings can sense confidence. Confident people carry themselves differently than those who lack confidence. The differences are staggering. Confident people stand taller, are more calm under pressure, speak loudly and more clearly, and they take up more space than their counter-parts that lack confidence. Your team takes their cues from you. If you are calm and confident, they will feel calm and confident. Confident people inspire those around them and fill them with certainty and conviction. Ask yourself, would you rather follow a leader who speaks decisively about the course of action the team will take, or a person who is unsure and shrugs his shoulders when it comes time to make decisions? The answer is clear.
- Judgment. I do not mean gossiping about Jack’s terrible haircut. I am referring to the ability to make informed and considered decisions, become committed to those decisions and, most importantly, execute and implement those decisions. Decisions are the first step in taking action. You cannot just want to take action, you have to decide on your course of action and then take steps in furtherance of that decision. When faced with more than one path, you have to decide which path you will take quickly and with certainty. Being able to make informed and well-reasoned decisions is what separates leaders from bosses. You cannot be paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. I never fully grasped the saying “no one is perfect” before I started making real decisions in my life. Everyone makes mistakes and no decision is 100% correct and 100% perfectly implemented. There is always room for improvement, even if that improvement is just a better execution on your decisions. The only way to develop better judgment is to get out there and start making some decisions, implementing those decisions and revisiting those decisions to see if they were successful or not.
- Sense of Humor. Did you hear that one about the guy that walked into the bar? Let’s be serious for a second… Okay that’s long enough. The workplace is filled with ups and downs. Missed opportunities and obstacles are intermingled with rewards for opportunities seized and successes. A keen sense of humor will smooth out those curves and make the struggles in the workplace more bearable. Happy people are productive people.
In closing, whether you are a team of one or manage a team of hundreds of people, these qualities will make you a more effective leader, inspire those around you and make you the kind of person that people want to follow. So be honest, communicate your expectations, be confident, be decisive, and, most importantly, don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive!
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