I came across this quote from Colin Powell, the ex-Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in America some time ago:
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
How would you measure up in your business against this benchmark set by General Powell? There are two facets of leadership this brings into question.
Firstly, how do you as manager or director encourage your people to communicate with you? Are your communication lines so difficult to get through that people have long given up trying to discuss everyday problems and challenges with you? Or do you welcome opportunities to deal with challenges in such a way that your team is motivated to approach you in times of pressure?
Secondly, many businesses see the act of asking for help as a weakness, and so do not welcome challenges being aired. This corporate culture can severely weaken the company, as people cover up the gaps that might exist. If you want to encourage your people to see you as a leader, make yourself accessible and available.
Powell talked about creating an environment in your department where problem analysis and decision-making replaced the blame culture that exists in many businesses. This isn’t easy, but, when done sufficiently well, will motivate staff to see you as an effective leader and encourage them to approach you rather than backing off. Prove to your people that they can trust you, and that you do care; then you’ll see the whole culture of your department thrive.
Originally published: 19 January, 2011
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