I wrote about Love Being A Lead a while back and although this is mostly a funny story, it is starting to take on a life of its own, especially in conversations between me and Paul Adams. So in the spirit of Valentine’s day (I know, I am late), what does it mean to be a love-being-a-lead lead?
First of all, let’s stop calling the people you lead “directs.” What is that even? An adjective that has been verbed? Let’s call them “those whom you lead.”
Love being a lead boils down to “Everything you do is about helping those whom you lead do their work.” Yes, it is about the work they‘ve been hired to do, but otherwise, it is really simple.
For example, you treat people with respect and as equals. Because why wouldn’t you. We’re all humans. You don’t do power games go cement your position. You share information freely, you don‘t build up power gradients by keeping those who you lead in the dark.
What counts is what those whom you lead accomplish. This is not about you. You don’t need time in the limelight. You’re not doing this to impress your boss (who ideally should also a love-being-a-lead).
You don’t make people do stuff. Never make people do stuff. Every time somebody is not doing what they would need to do is an opportunity for them to figure out and have their voice be heard. You can help them make their life a little better.
Your authority comes from your power to help and the trust of those whom you lead. It is not because you can fire people, which you probably can. People will listen because they know you will look for any opportunity to help them.
You share honest feedback to offer your perspective. You don’t give harsh feedback because you think people need to know when they suck. You give feedback because it is sometimes hard to really see what is going on. You help people see alternatives. You offer feedback so there is opportunity for improvement. And whenever possible you do it privately, outside of meetings.
You use your influence to help people change to become better at what they do. Changing old habits is really hard. You use your influence to create opportunities for growth.
You provide context and direction. There is fine line between telling people what to do and creating the environment where people see a path forward. You probably have more context and information to figure out what that path is. Life is complex and filled with uncertainty. You use your knowledge and experience to make people’s life easier.
Happy Valentine’s day.