Leader or Taskmaster?

Leadership is not something that is just given to you.  It’s not a birth right.  You certainly don’t learn it from a book and it sure as hell is not bestowed upon you with a college degree.

Leadership is earned, just like respect.  It’s earned by your actions and the respect that you earn from others as a result of those actions.

I didn’t say anything about being liked by others, but being respected by others.  Those are two different things.

The leader isn’t necessarily the smartest one in the group or the most daring.  And they aren’t necessarily the most arrogant or narcissistic.  Some of the great ones were but their actions and results tend to make us think of them as eccentric rather than jerks.

You can be appointed the leader but that doesn’t make you the leader.

You can run around and tell everyone what to do but all that makes you is a taskmaster.

People will only do enough to avoid your wrath.  When you go around yelling and browbeating they’ll do just enough to not have you yell at them and nothing more.

Management wonders why they can’t get more out of their subordinates.

So what do they do?

Do they get down in the trenches, roll up their sleeves and try to understand the problems, their causes and provide help and guidance for a solution?

No they yell and threaten people’s jobs even more.

“The beatings will continue until moral improves”.  Not sure who first coined that phrase.  I’ve read it had something to do with the Japanese Navy in World War II.  But it seems to fit a lot of management philosophy today.

Perhaps it has to do with a certain amount of arrogance and unearned respect.

When you haven’t truly earned your position of leadership and are not being held accountable to the same consequences as your subordinates I guess you don’t understand why the threats don’t work.

I once was a leader.  I never saw myself as a leader but through hard work and success I earned the opportunity to be a leader.

I think what I miss most about not being in that role anymore is helping people by using the knowledge and insights I have gained over the last 25 years.

Although I am no longer a “manager” at my place of employment I still have a leadership role.  Other employees come to me for advice and help with issues the current management team doesn’t seem to have time to resolve or feel is not worth their time to get involved.  On many occasions I must tell my coworkers here is what I would do but you need to get approval from your manager, this is really their decision.

Most of what I learned about being a leader didn’t come from a book, it came from being a leader every day.

When I was a manager I had one mantra that I lived by at the work place.  It was “Never ask anyone to do a anything I wouldn’t do myself.”  I always wanted to make sure I could do any job I was asking anyone to do as well as they could if not better.  This way I understood the ramifications of decisions I was making and how they affected everyone up and down the chain.

I tried to set a good example.  I was always the first one in the office and the last one out at night.  My team knew this and could never question my work ethic.  This is very important when you’re asking people to work longer and harder.   Would you respect your boss if they asked you to stay late to complete a project and then they left early?

It sometimes appears that the current generation of managers has put a twist on my mantra.  Theirs is more like, “My workers are here to do the work I will not do because I am too smart and too important to concern myself with such trivial matters.  I have higher leveraged activities to deal with.”

How can you make a smart decision when you don’t really know or understand what your subordinates are doing?  If you don’t deal with the trivial stuff it will soon be a higher leveraged activity for you to deal with.

Why would you follow someone with that attitude towards you and your work?

Here are some good quotes on leadership.  Do you have any to share?

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

 “Leadership is an action, not a position.” Donald McGannon

 “If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.” Henry David Thoreau

 “There is a difference between being a leader and being a boss. Both are based on authority. A boss demands blind obedience; a leader earns his authority through understanding and trust.” Klaus Balkenhol

 “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


 © Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 thoughts on “Leader or Taskmaster?

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Lessons From Proverbs | About The Groove

  2. Pingback: My Favorite Lessons From Proverbs – About The Groove

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