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The True Power of Leadership

The True Power in Leadership

The generic definition of leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. As we all know, there is so much missing from that definition. There are countless numbers of books written on this topic, all diving deep into the who’s, the why’s, and the how’s in the leadership game. Innovators in these theories try to help us understand that we all have different working or leadership styles, and encourage us to employ best practices with the goal of making us more effective in our jobs and ultimately our careers. During my career, I have read many of these books and employed many of these methods, and some have been effective while others, well, let’s just say we gave it a try! The ultimate challenge comes when your boss, instructed to read the book as well, does not read or employ the methods because they believe they are above the teachings. This speaks volumes to those of us that work for these individuals. The result is often a long drive, down a bumpy road, ending in a dead battery, leaving you stranded with colorful expletives emanating from your mouth. At this point, many of us begin to wonder if it’s all worth it.

According to an article published by US Today in January of 2022, many Americans quit their jobs at a record pace. Economical and societal factors since COVID have helped to fuel what many call “The Great Resignation.” In all honesty, it also makes us wonder if the mass resignations came from self-realization, a process where many are realizing their worth, discovering what they bring to the table is valuable, and longing for respect and appreciation. During this time, leadership strategists and leaders themselves must take a new road, readjusting their course settings to find their way through this movement. With some leaders, shying away and taking a familiar road can lead to employee retention challenges and eventually will impact performance and profits.

Company leaders, from the owners all the way down to the front line, must realize that to be successful their employees no longer want to be in a work environment that completely drains them of their dignity, creativity, self-worth, and their time as they worry about challenges of their job environment. When these situations exist, your most loyal and effective team members reevaluate the organization and the leader’s role in their lives. Unproductive behaviors, bad habits, unpredictability of temperament, insecurity, and a leader’s need for external power and micromanagement can be the death of an organization’s workforce and eventually the organization itself.

In this changing time, I have found all that I have learned over the years has helped. Most of what I learned was never from a book, although at times, some book strategies have helped. My experiences within leadership have taken me on a long journey, a journey that has, at times, drained me of all that was me. On this journey, I have learned some of the best leadership qualities from some of the most ineffective leaders. When I was the direct recipient of or with a larger group that was the overall recipient of targeted attacks stemming from insecurity, negativity, or ineffective leadership qualities, I vowed many times over never to make anyone feel the degradation, insecurity, and the worthlessness that I experienced. In the presence of great leaders, these thoughts were only reinforced. In my career, I have found my keys to successful leadership. As simple as they appear, they have proven to be effective in the age of “The Great Resignation.” These keys include:

  • ● Value individuality, knowledge, and experience. With these qualities come creativity and solutions, and a happy team.
  • ● Show respect and ensure it is a guiding principle within your team.
  • ● Listen to learn and truly understand. Understanding people and their experiences not only helps you relate to and sympathize with people, but it helps in challenging situations. Employees will know when it is not genuine.
  • ● Be aware and try to understand the challenges others may be facing. Encourage those on the team to understand the challenges of others.
  • ● Build a team and environment that supports freedom. People need to feel secure to express their viewpoints, creativity, and solutions.
  • ● Offer flexibility. Flexibility of schedules within the work environment can impact productivity in a positive way.
  • ● Recognize the strengths of those on your team and work with them, not against them in a battle for power.
  • ● Be aware of weaknesses and mentor when necessary, promoting growth. When possible, encourage team partnerships to aid in growth and development.
  • ● Encourage a team approach in problem solving.
  • ● Micro-management of productive and dedicated people is a bad habit! It can lead to the downfall of the team, as well as your own.
  • ● When realizing that an individual is not the right fit for the job, talk to them about the situation and help them to find the best solution for their personal growth and development.
  • ● In a larger organization, balancing the needs of a corporation with the needs of the local entity can be a challenging task. An effective leader creates a shield and brings the team’s attention to the task at hand. It is important to speak, feel and live the principle of “we are all in this together and we will figure this out together.”
  • ● Always work to build future leaders. Micro-management does not build future leaders.
  • ● When walking into a new team, evaluate all processes and standards already in existence. Get feedback from the team on what is working and what is not. Work with the team on new solutions if necessary and if something is working well, and the team likes it, leave it alone! Coming in eager to change everything can lead to dissatisfaction among your team and can cause you to lose good people.
  • ● Always give credit where credit is due, whether it’s your team or an individual on your team. This is one of the most important rules any leader can follow. When possible, give credit in a public forum and when your leaders commend you, make them aware of the team or the individual that contributed to or was responsible for the success. Never take credit that was never yours in the first place. Take pride in your team and their efforts. Your success is not possible without their dedication.

Although I have employed these practices, not every leader I have worked for has felt or exhibited similar practices or basic practices in kindness. That is where the challenge comes in. Leadership books have taught me to try and understand these individuals and find the most effective ways to work with them, and I have had success. But, as many of us know, this will not work with all leaders. My advice to you: Don’t give up! Research what leadership models, strategies and principles may be effective in your situation. Look inside yourself and realize the qualities that make you a good person and a good leader, and use these amazing qualities to help you navigate the more challenging leaders or companies that you work for.

If, however, you find that the situation does not change, as many may be realizing during this time, fully evaluate your professional and personal situation. If you have tried and are reaching the point where you are unhappy, and it’s affecting not only your professional life but your personal life or health, it is time for you to realize you are worth so much more! No job is worth the price of feeling like you have lost everything that makes you who you are. Begin to evaluate new paths. investigate new opportunities and companies, explore new ventures, the changing market trends, or maybe even start a business. In the end, if you are not happy, you will not be successful on any level.

Not all leaders and companies will value your efforts and those of your teams: This is not a failure! Ultimately, it’s a success because those experiences offered you an opportunity for growth, and in the end, can make you a better leader. Thank these people and companies for helping you to accomplish great things and for the lessons they provided.

Good leadership, poor leadership and rejection has put me on some amazing paths with amazing experiences. On this road, I have worked with and met wonderful people, made life-long friendships, and have enjoyed watching the success of those who have worked for me. In this time of “The Great Resignation” and self-realization, don’t compromise what you value in your professional and personal life. Valuing yourself, those that work with you and basic human principles are your keys to success! Always remember that external power is not true power: Honest, human connections are true power and can lead to a fulfilling life, professionally and personally.

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