What John C. Maxwell won’t tell you about Leadership
Since being introduced to Mr. Maxwell by way of books and audio recordings, he’s become my unofficial mentor and reference for everything leadership. I love everything about his concepts and philosophy on leadership but let’s be real, John can’t always tell it like it is for the average leader doing trench work.
When you’ve reached a certain stature, and have gained a worldwide professional fan base, some things are off the table in terms of discussion. That’s ok, because the up and coming nationally recognized leaders like myself get to fill in those blanks. So, while Mr. Maxwell did an outstanding job covering the laws of leadership, here are 3 things about leadership he’s never going to tell you.
1. Leaders don’t like everyone on their team. Let’s just be honest here, leaders are human too and while we strive to be likable and to like everyone who follows us the fact is we don’t. Some of our followers have character traits that don’t align with who we are or habits that are simply crazy annoying to deal with. This however does not alleviate us from being obligated to show respect, professionalism and some signs of likeness. This does not mean that you are in agreement with their character traits or habits, it simply means that as the leader, you’re mature enough and professional enough to demonstrate even playing ground and not project a sense of favoritism. Your credibility as a fair leader will tank 10 points or more once your followers can identify who your favorites are. Therefore, a prime responsibility has to be to treat everyone like a favorite, even when they’re not. It’s going to be tough at times but as leaders we don’t get to outwardly display when we don’t like someone. We call this tactic “fake it ‘till you make it”.
2. It hurts to carry messages we don’t believe in. One of my most dreaded tasks at my old corporate job was delivering messages that were outright insane. When the disconnect between the big wigs and the people who actually get the work done is so great, sometimes decisions can be made without fully understanding the impact to the work culture. When you’re doing your best to protect things like morale, engagement and the overall feel of the workplace it becomes pretty frustrating when someone who has no idea what happens on the ground throws down an order that could possibly disrupt your entire operation. Fellow leaders, the best thing I can tell you is to be real but be cautious because “being real” comes with a price and it’s called loyalty. If you have not done your due diligence in earning your team’s loyalty, you’ll find yourself either being the leader who is blaming the big wigs for the changes and whimpishly hiding behind the infamous “they said”. Or tripping over your words, pretending as if you personally thought this was a good idea and you’re giving no options. No! No! and NO! When you’ve earned your team’s loyalty you can be real with them and still get them to move in the direction you need them to go. The message then becomes an honest conversation about what the ask is, where you stand, what barriers need to be moved and what the next steps are. Wa-La! People may not be happy with the overall change but they will have appreciated you for your transparency and be in a place to move on to the next agenda item without any hassle or bad blood.
3. Giving the benefit of the doubt can be hard. Especially when you’ve already put in the work of understanding your team and building a solid relationship on an individual level. You’ve come to know their personality, their habits and routine. Its super hard to give “Jeff” a pass on being late even though he claims there’s been a death in the family. “Jeff” has a habit of being late on Saturdays, he’s unable to provide any type of documented proof and we know from social media that “Jeff” was hanging out the prior evening. And even with all the evidence stacked against him, we still give our dear “Jeff” a slight pass simply because as leaders we are sensitive to life and as servant leaders we know that no one should be put on the chopping block after a death in the family. Besides that, documented or not, our company would never win an unemployment hearing in court if the employee can somehow prove they truly were dealing with a death. It’s just too slippery, too insensitive and so not worth the credibility you lose by hounding someone when they’ve expressed something that serious. People deal with pain and tragedy different so we cannot assume the role of judge in this case and expect “Jeff” to handle his grief like most people would. It is however ok to have a real conversation with your “Jeff” and let him know what the policy is, what his trend has been and what your expectations are going forward. You may clearly state that any reason outside of his own death may result in unfavorable consequences and that you will do your best to support him in any way that you can. I know it’s tough but good stewardship requires us to always start everyone with a clean slate and work the issues from there.
If Mr. Maxwell gets an opportunity to read this I’m sure he would nod his head in agreement and give us that signature right arm air grab.
Do you have thoughts about the principles mentioned in this article or have other leadership issues you’re dealing with that most experts won’t address? Reach out to me, let’s talk about it. I love hearing from my readers.
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