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Following the Leader – Is it always the best?

Many years ago (we won’t say how many), when I was in elementary school, we were taught “follow the leader” and leaders are picked as the individuals that others should look up to and follow throughout the day or year in school. At that time, these chosen leaders in my classes were chosen because they were either well-behaved, demonstrated solid performance, showed respect and demonstrated other positive character traits that we are taught at such a young age.

In thinking back to those times in elementary school and throughout my career in various locations, I see such a difference in the choosing of leaders now for businesses (and even schools), etc. While there are many leaders that I have worked for or with that I highly respect, I find there are others that quickly move up the corporate ladder based on everything opposite of what I see as a solid leader and typically driven by internal politics or fear.

The definition of a leader (in my opinion) is a person that can carry their team to the finish line by understanding the overall company vision, engaging with the team members by understanding the business needs, understanding and defining both the rules of engagement, accountability and execution. All of this is done with the leader developing appropriate relationships in the company that can support the team and drive excellence. This individual puts the team before themselves. Leaders will take the high level approach and have the courage to say, “this is wrong” or “we aren’t working on the right things” instead of just doing what we have always done or fear to address it with somebody.

Don’t you often see the leader that prides themselves on bullying to get what they want, or talk negatively about other areas seem to move up in the organization? I often see the ones that have no respect from their teams move up because they are perceived as courageous and assertive. But in reality, their teams don’t respect them, are only doing as they are told or likely planning their next move to quit. The high quality leaders have an organization that is informed, understand how their tasks align and want to make sure they make the boss look good because they respect them.

These perceived “assertive leaders” will never get the full potential out of their teams because they are only operating in fear and holding back any creativity due to the likelihood of criticism. At times, these leaders take credit for their team’s work so in return the team does not operate at their highest potential. I have seen where employees will only exceed expectations when there is the highest respect for their manager.

When team members work for these leaders that push their way through the organization, they begin to mimic these same behaviors because they believe the power play should work for them too…and in some cases it will. Therefore, we multiply the bad behaviors into the senior levels of the organization and it becomes a difficult swim against the current for others that have worked hard with core values to move up in the company. Individuals are seen as weak at times because they are not tough and not bullying to get what they want.

So, is it best to follow? As they say, it depends. Independent of when you lead or follow, the most important point is to stick with your core values, and lead the right way. Everything happens with time so a little patience and networking with the RIGHT leaders will help eventually. Don’t give in to following the wrong leader traits and change who you are to get that next promotion. Stay true to who you are and never drop your integrity at the front door of your company for any job or promotion.

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