10 Jan '13
The soft side of leadership
I spoke with a member of a large organization this week who told me that the morale of the staff was hurting. One of the factors was that the new president did not connect with the staff like the previous president. When I probed as to why that was he could not explain the difference except that it was different and it had made a difference with morale.
There may well be reasons for this. The business is a lot larger than it used to be and many employees would not know the new president. Economic realities may well dictate that he spend his time on different issues than his predecessor. Or, he may not be perceived as relational.
What I do know is that there is an important but "soft" side to leadership which is not about strategies, vision, budgets or execution. It is showing an appreciation for one's staff, being personable and approachable when with staff, and caring about the impact of decisions on people in the organization.
One leader I have watched breezes in and out of the office with a sense of importance, rarely stopping to greet those he passes and when he does he says, "I'm really busy." What he communicates is "I am really full of myself and what I'm up to is important but you are not." This is a ministry leader - a pastor - and his lack of interest in or time for staff sends a strong message to those who work for him.
Rarely does he engage staff personally, stop into their offices or invite them into his and sends a strong message that he is the leader, is busy and does important things. Behind his back his staff have a name for him and it is not one he would appreciate - but it fits well. Any leader who sends those kinds of message may have authority but is not a good leader.
It also breeds mistrust among staff because trust is only possible in the context of relationship. Certainly a high view of ourselves and the perception that we use people rather than value people breeds mistrust.
The leader I work for is never too busy to stop, talk, engage staff and to find out what is happening in their lives, no matter where they are in the organizational structure. He is widely loved, trusted and respected while the individual above is neither loved nor respected. The difference? Treating people with dignity, concern and appreciation.
Organizations, whether businesses or ministries are made up of people. It is the staff which represents the heart, the intellectual capital and the ability of the organization to deliver something of value to those outside of the organization.
Staff knows whether their leaders use them or value them. That is essentially the difference in the illustrations above. People may fear a leader because he or she uses people but they will neither respect nor love them.
One of the best things leaders can do is to pay attention to those around them and those who work for them. It will deeply impact the morale of the group and treating people with dignity, well, it is what Jesus would do - and did.