Consistently exhibiting good leadership qualities is not always easy. Sometimes, I even find myself slipping into thoughts that would not indicate a good leadership mindset. For example, recently when a colleague relentlessly questioned a decision I had made, I eventually wanted to just tell her, “Please, just do it.” I wanted to say those words so badly. I was tired, it had been a long day, and I just wanted something accomplished so I could check it off my list. It was absolutely necessary for me to actually keep what I know about good leadership at the forefront of my mind, and run everything I was thinking through a filter prior to it coming out of my mouth. It took effort. Lots and lots of effort.
It is easy to be a leader when everything is going smoothly. It’s those times when you’re exhausted, you’re busy, and when you have people advocating strongly for their own beliefs, that it’s easy to slip into the easiest way to answer people and deal with situations; rely on compliance and “pull the boss card”, which is never the right way. Leadership is not always pretty. We often discuss leaders and managers as being opposites, like they’re good versus evil, but I don’t think that’s true. I think that there are few times when managing is appropriate. Oftentimes, people that try to lead but exhibit negative qualities are just impersonators. They may look like leaders, they think they know what leadership should look like, they might call themselves leaders, but they don’t know how to fully think like a leader. They have not been given the tools to transform how they react into a supportive, functional, relationship-based, servant leadership.
When a leader responds to feedback, their first thought will revolve around the fact that perception is everything. They will validate the person’s feelings, but will ask themselves what they can adjust to change this perception. They will start from within.
When an impersonator responds to feedback, they will look for excuses as to why that person feels the way they do. Maybe they will blame outside influences, maybe they will say it’s personality issues, maybe they will blame their team. Either way they will have little to no internal reflection to base their response.
When a leader responds, at any time, the tone of their response will be humble and understanding. They will know that their response will determine the outcome to the situation, and that sincerity must be the foundation of their message.
When an impersonator responds, their message will either be sarcastic or defensive. They may give information, but it will be in a “I don’t have time for this” or “I am really above answering this question” manner. They might give you answers that don’t make sense because they haven’t really heard what you said. No matter the words used, an impersonator leaves behind an air of condescension.
A leader looks at relationships as the foundation for what all other learning and interactions are based on. They know that spending the time building quality relationships creates the positive climate & robust culture that supports learning.
An impersonator values relationships only from the standpoint of when they are valuable. While they might seem to value them during good times, when adversity comes around, the relationships are valued only as much as they are useful.
This one is simple. When you’ve finished working with a leader, you’ll feel lifted up.
When you’ve finished working with a impersonator, you’ll feel pushed down.
Sometimes, it takes experiencing these two different types in order to really see the difference. As I’ve always said, you can learn just as much from someone you do not want to be like as someone you do, but it’s so much more rewarding and uplifting of an experience to work with the latter. And it’s not easy to be a leader. There are times when I struggle with what is easy and what is right when situations are hectic and hard and stressful. I mess up sometimes, and then I apologize. I adjust my course to be better. I just try to be the leader that I would want to have, and learn what I don’t want to be from the impersonators I meet.