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Leadership – It’s About The People

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Leadership – It’s About The People

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

If you think leadership is about you, your ego has led you astray. Leadership has little to do with you and everything to do with those you lead. If you think leadership is about the bottom line, think again; it’s about the people. Without the people there is no bottom line. Closely examine the core characteristics of great leadership, and you’ll find it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership lives and dies by it’s ability to engage, influence, and care for the people. Are those you lead better off for being led by you?

It’s Not About You
Many view leadership as little more than a stage from which to promote themselves. While it’s true being in a position of leadership may afford you a marvelous platform, it’s important to recognize there exists no leadership platform but for the people. You didn’t build the platform, the people you lead built the platform and have entrusted it’s care and well being to you – forget this and failure is certain.

Why Do You Lead?
Leadership can represent a pursuit, discipline, practice, passion, calling, skill, competency, obligation, duty, compulsion, or even an obsession. I’ve known those who have worshiped at the altar of leadership as a religion, and a bit of reflection will reveal more than a few leadership revolutions dotting the historical timeline. Do you lead to glorify yourself, or for a purpose greater than yourself?

Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur on your leadership journey.

If You Don’t Care About Those You Lead – You Have No Business Leading Them
You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously.

The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom (see: Shut-up and Listen). I’m going to make this as simple as I can; leadership is all about the people – nothing more & nothing less.

It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Right
Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. It’s not about being right it’s about achieving the right outcome. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Let me be clear – I’m in no way espousing form over substance. This is not solely an issue of likability, but one of trust and respect. That said, you will rarely find likability absent where trust and respect are present. Smart leaders put their people first and keep their commitments. They understand that promises made are meaningless, promises broken are costly, and promises kept are invaluable. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, or what your title is, if you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people.

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below…

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20 Comments

    ATIG

    April 24, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Dear Mike,

    Often we confuse vision for mission and accomplishing without the values is a reprieve.

    I believe when problem is solved , then the mission is accomplished.
    Maybe I confuse : Longevity vs. accomplishments.

    “Passion. That’s it. When you believe in what you’re doing, that’s it.” – Dov Charney

    Thanks,
    Sami

    Suzanne

    April 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Great article – thanks. I also think that in these times of rapid change standing in our leadership with confidence AND humility, curiosity & transparency is needed in order to have the flexibility to move forward and create in new ways. And as you’ve stated so well, generating collaboration with others is mandatory!
    Suzanne

    Anonymous

    April 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Mike,

    You wrote”smart leaders put their people first and keep their commitments” and I could not agree more. the more engaged people are within an organization the greater the effectiveness of that organization. Great article!

    Steve

    snappy

    April 26, 2012 at 4:07 am

    This write up is based upon some real and practical experiences. i liked the last line the most ”
     It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, or what your title is, if you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people.”

    Miriam

    April 27, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Excellent Points Mike! 

    If there is little to no communication, there’s not much leading. But then again, you highlighted a great point in your article about listening (see: Shut-up and Listen)… people are always communicating.

    People’s non-verbal behavior often paints a crystal clear picture of what is personally important or not important. You’re always sending a message…

    Seth Godin said in one of his books, “What’s helpful is to realize that you have a choice when you communicate.” You always have a choice to be clear or fuzzy when you express yourself. That’s why it’s important to know how to distinguish

    The
    Look Of A Leader Vs. The Posture of A Leader.

      Mike Myatt

      April 27, 2012 at 5:22 am

      Insightful comment Miriam. I especially like the “look of a leader vs. the posture of a leader” thought. Thanks for sharing. 

    Rox Davidson

    April 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Great post Mike, I really agree on this. Very inspiring and an excellent definition of a good leader where he always think of his members and having a professional relationship with them which is a good way on the industry.

    Becca Smith

    April 30, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Excellent post. Being a leader is not how you command the people under you but how you bring them to a better and great journey.

    […] Read More […]

    Timothy

    May 2, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Dear Mike,
    A very thought provoking article and you mention some excellent point. I just wanted to clarify that when you wrote “who have worshiped at the alter of leadership as a religion” – did you mean ‘altar’ or ‘alter’? I just wanted to make sure. 

    Your thoughts, really well put. Thank you for your insight. 

    TT

      Mike Myatt

      May 3, 2012 at 7:17 am

      Thanks for the kind words, as well as for pointing out the needed correction.

    Gary123

    May 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Greetings Mike,

    Your blog gives some thought-provoking observations.  Believe before one can lead, one needs to understand what the main mission is and without that one can do nothing but create chaos.  The more one understands that step one what are you there for?, the more one can LEAD others to achieve that goal or flounder as incompetent.  The leader and others are a by-product of the SPS – Specific Purpose Statement.  Define the SPS and then go after it.

    There are 4 key ingredients to great leaders.
    1.  Candor and plain speaking.  Quality leaders look for actions not words.  Great leaders redeem the time building the big picture in others’ minds as it is in theirs.  Zero tolerance for lack of productivity wanting only “A” players around them or develop them.
    2.  Decisiveness.  They expect impossibilities are possible and expect them to happen.  They ponder and then act taking great risks or advance bold initiatives.  Always setting the example of being intense all the time.
    3.  Balance attention to details while seeing the big picture visions.  Being perfectionists in their single-minded focus while not lost in the details.  As Steve Jobs of Apple fame said it had to be perfect or he didn’t want his name associated with it.  Honorable trustworthy leaders put the product/service, business, nation before self.  Their focus will be on their subjects as Dale Carnegie trains in his classic How To Win Friends And Influence People and Tom Hopkins selling others to want to do what they can to be part of the vision outcome.
    4.  A historical imagination to form judgment.  The great world leader Winston Churchill “The further you look back, the farther forward you can see.”  As Wayne Gretsky said about skating, “Skate where the puck will be.  Not where it is.”

    In other words, great leaders test everything.  Great leaders are self educators knowing history while pushing the boundaries thinking outside the normal box willing to look at other industries and adapting what they can for the benefit now and in the future.

    So, Mike, yes, it is about people, but more importantly, it is about a whole lot more.  What led up to the people?  That is the real key you do not seem to address in this simplistic approach. 

    To me, great leaders mold and shape their people to duplicate themselves to become future replacements so they can move up the ladder (in that entity or another) even more.  In other words, getting everyone to THINK.

      Mike Myatt

      July 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Hi Gary:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, most of which I agree with. That said, I vehemently disagree with the first sentence in the last paragraph of your comment. A leader’s job is not to mint fresh copies of themselves, but rather to create new works of art much better than the original. You are correct by pointing out the purpose behind the people matters, but only where the people don’t get lost in the equation. Thanks again for stopping by Gary. 

    Anne

    May 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Loved this blog! Thank you for sharing it. I hope it is shared with many people in leadership positions.

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