All too often I end up having debates with people about whether they are leaders or managers. It is amazing how many people still think it is one and the same thing. This could possibly be because they see leadership as a role or title. The Managing Directors of an organization assumes they are leaders merely because they hold the top position. Even though the title is Managing Director and not Leading Director, they still automatically assume they are leading, because it is part of management after all.
It is not about a role or title. It is about your attitude and the choice you make whether or not to lead. If you accept the position as being most important, you will not be leading your team, you will merely be issuing instructions which they will carry out simply because they fear you and your position. On the other hand, if you were a real leader, they would carry out what you require simply because they trust you and want to do what you require.
Attitude, not aptitude determines altitude – Zig Ziglar
Have you ever tossed a rock into a pond or lake? You would have noticed that it created ripples that widened to the outside. This same principles applies to leadership. These ripples, or rings that form, are the Leader-Rings I am referring to. There are some interesting similarities that should be considered.
You would have noticed that the rock always lands in the middle of the ripples. The reason is that the leader is positioned in the middle and the leader should therefore be taking the brunt of the “attack”. The attack could refer to corporate pressures, economic pressures and so forth. The leader should be shielding the organization against these attacks.
Secondly you will notice that the ripples move outwards and not inwards. This is because the leader should have the backs of his immediate reports – the ring below them. And this concept filters all the way down to the lowest ranking employee. Many centuries ago, before armoured tanks and fighter jets, soldiers went to war wearing armour. Carefully notice the area of coverage of the armour. They had sandals and protection over their legs; they had breast plates and helmets and protection over their arms and they also carried shields to protect them from attack.
They had nothing protecting their backs.
Their backs were protected by the other soldiers standing behind them and facing backwards.
A friend of mine, and fellow leadership trainer, once used the traffic officer as an example of this. Do you really think that a traffic officer, weighing a mere 100KG, can stop an oncoming truck of nine tonnes? No – he would be flattened. The question that begs to be asked is “Why then does a traffic officer ignore the forces of nature and impending danger, and boldly step out in front of the truck?” The answer to that is that he trusts the team and leadership behind him implicitly. He knows that he is backed by his senior officers, who in turn are backed by the municipal administration, and they are backed by the government. That solitary traffic officer knows and trusts that should the driver of the truck not stop and flatten him, the entire force of the law and legal structure in place will hunt the driver down and make him pay.
So the traffic officer does not even consider the possibility of being flattened…… he steps out and does his job because he knows his back is covered.
Leader-Rings create that safety net and level of trust that allow your team to step out in trust and do their job. If they know you have their backs, no matter what the situation is, they will trust you as their leader and spring into action.
If you have the backs of your team, you will also allow them to make mistakes from time to time. The only way the learn is through experience, and experience only comes from learning from your mistakes. There are times when the are they afraid to tell you when they slipped up, because there is a fear of being fired. They afraid to tell you about personal issues because you told them to leave their personal issues outside the workplace. They hide it from you when they have made an error and try to fix it up on their own before you find out because off fear of being reprimanded or disciplined. If you relate to any of these statement, then chances are that your Leader-Rings are not functioning in your team. Your team do not trust you that you have their backs and will stand up for them. They are afraid that you will fire them before attempting to help them learn from the mistake. Allow them to fail every now and then.
Failure is only failure if no lesson is learnt – otherwise it is experience
You need to consider the following questions in order to create your Leader-Rings and ern the trust of your followers:
Create Leader-Rings and become an authentic trusted leader and you will have a team that will also have your back.