Lessons on Leadership 1.0 (January 2017)

In over six months as a sales manager and upon involving myself in various projects with different departments, the lens with which I see people management has heavily changed from the time I undertook the new role. Leadership had always been a natural inclination, but it is much, much tougher from a corporate perspective. As I started off with theoretical ideals of how I ought to handle people, I constantly found myself re-framing my notions. Perhaps I have merely pieced together one tiny part of the puzzle, for I am still confronted with a multiplex of loose bits (later I may even find myself dealing with the wrong puzzle in the first place, but have yet to find that out). Genuine mistakes can never be foreseen but only looked back on, so allow me to share what I have learned throughout my journey thus far–which may or may not be altered in the long run. The reader may or may not like what I have to say, but at least he may welcome a different perspective on the subject.

  1. Documentation makes for easier delegation, contributes to smooth transition and provides clear job roles. I couldn’t stress enough how integral this is in running an organization. It helps make things efficient, eliminates vagueness, encourages consistency, allows for a clear and detailed understanding, and is handy for legal proceedings and other difficult situations.
  2. On feedback: criticize the work, justify your claims, and connect to the goal. The first two are rational, the last, emotional. This is my standard format when delivering constructive criticism. I start by enumerating specific acts (not an aspect of the person’s character) backed up by evidence. After which, I connect it to his job role or your agreed standard of expectation (this is when documentation comes in handy); and ultimately allow the person to feel the weight of his actions on his career objectives and the company’s goals. I see to it that he sees the bigger picture (he may even appreciate the feedback) and is aware of his direct correlation to the company’s growth, be it negative or positive.
  3. On motivation: monetary & material incentives keep a short-term high, but purpose and growth are in for the long haul. In one of TED’s most watched episodes of all time, Simon Sinek shares what great leaders have in common: it is that they build on WHY’S. The knowledge AND experience of being able to contribute to the company’s vision is one of the strongest internal motivators and greatly impacts the level of job satisfaction. Letting people know is easy, what makes things difficult is making them feel it. Apart from temporal rewards, one must constantly make people envision the great change and impact your company wishes to make. Market the dream by making it palpable.
  4. People aren’t evil, sometimes they’re simply forgetful. When a company’s values are successfully introduced to its members, there emerges an excitement and willingness which fades over time. That may be because change is unintentionally neglected unless built into habit. I used to question the initial commitment when it falls out, but I realized that just like plants need water to grow, leaders need to faithfully ‘sprinkle’ with reminder. Culture is a product of a leader’s persistence (or neglect), therefore one must be persistent to advise and correct until the company’s values are weaved into John Doe’s everyday action.
  5. Training is effective only when it reaches synthesis. Just like company policies, training must be consistent, repetitive, and tested (until passed with flying colors) to be highly effective. There must exist a system which tracks the transition from memorization (a form of learning with the lowest retention ratio) to synthesis–being able to apply the learnings across situations (with the highest), and a measure to find the correlation between synthesis and company’s overall performance. Otherwise, the organization may be unaware that it is pointlessly investing on the wrong people, or that its training approach is faulty.
  6. Different situations call for different leadership styles; any one who says one size fits all is completely out of fashion. Authoritative, democratic, or laissez faire must depend on what, when, who, and why. One must develop a strategic attitude when solving problems, or better, avoiding them altogether. The leader must be careful to survey the battlefield before choosing his weapon.
  7. Inspire action by being credible as a leader. Jesus Christ was the epitome of magnetic leadership. He led His disciples by example; they unconsciously imitated His character. As someone my people are exposed to for about 70% of their waking hours, I rub off on my them, whether I like it or not, therefore I am responsible for choosing the kind of influence they adapt from me. Advice number seven is transcendent and a matter of truth: be the kind of person you want others to be.
  8. Raise your people to become independent. One might not exactly find the immediate importance of making himself replaceable. It may even be a repulsive thing to do, as a result of trust issues or incompetence. But this is a tall order he must fulfill (on the right people) as you go. Otherwise, he may be stuck being the only person able to the job, and no one would want that. Picture twelve-to-sixteen-hour workdays, and being that boss who stays glued to the laptop throughout his vacation. When work severely takes a toll on one’s personal life, it never ends well. You’ve seen the movies.
  9. Micro-management is beneficial, to a certain extent. I’ve heard business leaders talk of micro-management as a corporate no-no; it has no place in certain companies. Though I’d like to point out that may actually be crucial in some circumstances, particularly when introducing a delicate and technical role or task or in pretty much everything in a time of crisis. Again, it is a matter of who, when, what, and why; and it mostly goes wrong when it becomes your standard operating procedure to invade breathing space when introducing anything to anyone in the company.
  10. On purpose: I’m in it to serve, not to be served. As a business owner, it’s easy to jump into thinking I’ve got people working for me; though I’ve learned (the hard way) that selfish pursuit hurts both ways. Career is commonly motivated by success, or money, or achievement, or fame; but upon observing the rich tycoons who operate by these affairs, I cringe. I’ve come to see how they yearn for something these things could not offer.Therefore, I offer this advice: Build your dreams on solid foundation, whatever that may be for you; for on it they will stand no matter the weather. Work, which takes up the bulk of my time each week, is my ministry–my greatest act of worship. Because of that, I must operate with the awareness that I serve my God in this endeavor, and part of it is rightly serving its stakeholders and customers alike. Though work may be a thing of this world, the heart and intentions that inspire it are transcendent.I don’t have it easy most days, but in any case, Purpose gives life to action.

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