To be a leader is not merely being a boss. One has to understand that leadership is also all about relationships. Leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of other people whom he or she must guide, help or develop and not merely command them to tell them what to do then leave them be or look over their shoulders all the time. Members of a group or team are also human beings and as such need to be treated that way. The main idea here is that character is one of the most important quality a leader must possess in order to be effective. This matters more than competency. It is the bedrock of one’s personality.
One’s character will determine how one will relate to others as a leader (Maxwell 1999: 1). The following define my philosophy of leadership. Reciprocity/Mutualism (Give-and-Take): The first point I would like to raise is a the relationship between a leader and his or her team is grounded in a mutual give-and-take relationship. I adhere to the Golden rule of doing unto others what I would want others to do to me. For instance, if one of my group members is falling behind in his or her task, instead of lashing out in anger and pushing them to keep working (to death), I would help that person step up.
Why would I do that? Because I would like to imagine myself in the place of my subordinate and if my leader were cruel and a slave driver, I would be upset as well. I do not want my subordinates to feel that way toward me and this would negatively affect not only my relationship with my team, but with the overall performance of the team in the company and ultimately, my career. Corollary to reciprocity, I would also incorporate the traits of compassion and empathy as part of this give-and-take relationship.
I have realized that in relationships, whether it is personal or professional, it does not matter to people how smart and competent I may by until they will see how much I care for others. One has to understand that everybody likes to feel special, they hope and dream for a bright future, they want a sense of direction, they want success; but so do I. I realized here that in order for me to achieve those things that I want, I have to help others achieve theirs and they will take care of mine one way or the other.
Essentially, a leader has to show love (Maxwell 1999: 103, 106-108). Trust: The next point that defines my leadership philosophy is trust. This is probably the most important element in a relationship regardless of the category or level. This can be related to the first point I have mentioned. In order for the members of my team to cooperate with me, I must not abuse the trust they have with me. As a leader, I wield considerable power and authority over them and they expect me to use it wisely and within reason.
When one puts their trust in you, they are giving you something more precious than their lives and you need to be really careful with it. For instance, one of my members has a gorgeous wife and I am attracted to her. I flirted with her without her husband/my subordinate knowing about it and had an affair with her. When he found out about it sooner or later, they fought at home and would probably divorce. In the office, he might look down on me with contempt or even resign or probably report me to the upper management and no longer show respect to me anymore even if I outrank him.
My point here is that when this trust is abused or breached, it would damage the relationship. My team may follow or obey me, but they will not respect me and this would seriously put my career at risk and will go on record which will be carried over should I find work in another company. It would be a stigma I would carry for the rest of my life. Their performance might not be very high as compared to trusting me because by performing poorly, they are making it known that they do not recognize my position as a leader or I am not worthy to be a leader (Heider 1985: 32).
Furthermore, if there is one thing I realize based on the example I mentioned, a leader’s legitimacy to lead is not determined by the higher authority that bestowed him or her the title, but rather from the ratification of the members of the team and that will depend on how much they trust the leader. The bottom line is, trust is like a glass ball, when you drop it, it will crack and it will never be the same again. This is why trust is something one should not fumble or abuse in a relationship, especially if you are a leader.
People are counting on you to help them, provide them the answers, and to meet their needs, whatever they may be. Honesty: My next point is honesty. I would like to begin discussing it by quoting John Maxwell: “All leaders need to have a group of people around them who will tell them what they think. They don’t need a bunch of yes-men and yes-women. The only way a leader will get honest feedback is by asking for it, and by treating people well when they actually give it. However, many leaders aren’t secure enough to ask for it or to respond to it without defensiveness.
Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth even though we need to. The reality is that many people don’t want to face reality. That’s why it is a good idea to ask others to help us (Maxwell 2008: 70). ” This is related to trust. If the people on my team trust me, I must trust them too and one of the things I should expect when we trust each other is to be honest to one another. For instance, if there is something I really do not know, I should not try to hide it and pretend I know or invent an answer. Instead, I should be honest enough to say “I don’t know” and probably seek the answer among my team who might know.
From the example I mentioned, pride is the thing a leader should not have, especially when it comes to the truth. If the truth would be painful to accept, pride will dictate we avoid it and lie if necessary which I feel is not right. This would be what is called “short-term gain, long-term pain. ” If can try and avoid it all I want but the funny thing about it is it has an uncanny way of coming back to you and will stay with you until you do something about it. Instead of pride, humility should be the trait a leader should have which goes well with honesty. There is no shame asking help from a subordinate.
Leaders should not be afraid to be told (properly and respectfully) by a subordinate or given advice. This is not always disrespect or insubordination. I may be a leader but I am also human. I also make mistakes and I do not have the answers to everything. If there is one nice thing about honesty and humility, it would help me grow because I still learned something. At the same time, I make it a point to acknowledge my subordinates who helped and see to it they are well rewarded and their career will grow as well. Fairness: Once again, I would like to quote John Maxwell on his understanding of fairness and equal treatment:
“There is a myth in some leadership circles that promotes the idea of treating everyone the same for the sake of “fairness. ” What a mistake… Leaders develop leaders give rewards, resources and responsibility based on results. The greater the impact of leaders, the greater the opportunities they receive (Maxwell 2008: 250). ” The point Maxwell would like to make is that fairness does not absolutely mean equality or treating others equally. The adage “all men are created equal” does not necessarily apply here” to a certain extent. This can be related to justice.
Although every individual is equally entitled to opportunities, this is where equal treatment stops. What happens next will define fairness. Fairness means giving something to the one who is deserving of it. At this point, fairness is associated with meritocracy, rewards and punishment, depending on how one performs. It would not really be considered fairness if I, the boss of the company would promote a long-time rank and file employee to a supervisory position yet whose performance is mediocre and bypass an employee who has only been in the company for 6 months and yet produced results that has greatly benefited the company.
Surely, I should base my judgment on performance and results because this is why the company hires such employees. Bosses and leaders must not play favorites nor should loyalty be the basis. This would enhance my image in the eyes of my subordinates and further my career. This should also inspire or motivate those who are mediocre to step up and improve in order to reap the rewards of giving one’s best at work. Justice: Lastly, there is justice. Justice and fairness can go hand in hand.
This would probably apply to subordinates or members of the team who have not been performing well nor are they conducting themselves properly. The challenge is what is a leader to do with such people. Despite desiring a close working relationship with subordinates. When one is a leader, one must realize that what makes him or her different from the rest of the members of the company are the added responsibilities which are essential for leading a team. An effective leader cannot do this if he or she is too close to members or the team to the point of intimacy.
It will be difficult to carry our tasks essential to achieving goals. A leader would not be able to do justice to his or her job if this would be the case and would not be fair to anyone and ultimately, the company will suffer and one’s career will not move forward. There has to be some impersonality or “unfamiliarity” in order to exercise justice. Like fairness, justice does not play favorites as well (Heider 1985: 5). Conclusion: These are the points that define my leadership philosophy. It has served me well and I am hoping it will continue to do so in the future and maybe influence others to do the same as well.
List of References Adair, J. (2007). Develop Your Leadership Skills. London: Kogan Page Limited. Heider, J. (1985). The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching Adapted for a New Age. Atlanta: Humanics New Age. Maxwell, J. C. (1999). The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers. Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers. Maxwell, J. C. (2008). Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading.