Leadership is Not About You

As a leader, you should never start thinking that leadership is all about you. When things go well, a great leader doesn’t look in the mirror and pound himself or herself on the chest and say, “Aren’t I fabulous?”  A great leader looks out the window and gives other people the credit. Get your ego out of the way and remember that leadership is about people who work with you, not for you.  People want a leader who cares about them and wants to help them achieve their goals so they can be magnificent.  So don’t get overimpressed by yourself as a leader. The fact of the matter is this: You are nothing without your people.

Is Conflict at Work Ever a Good Thing?

Many people assume that conflict in the workplace is always bad. But I think there are times when conflict is good—because if everybody always has the same opinion about everything, somebody’s not needed around here!

I love to gather a team around me where people have different opinions and feel free to disagree with each other about things. Why?  Because in this way, one plus one can equal about ten, if people share different points of view. One of my favorite phrases is “No one of us is as smart as all of us” and that especially rings true when you have people around you who aren’t afraid to give you their opinion on something. Everyone can work together for the greater good. So it’s healthy to encourage a little conflict or difference of opinion at work, as long as it’s constructive.

If some people on your team have personality conflicts and are just causing trouble and drama, that’s a different story. That’s a problem you may need to deal with as a leader. But generally speaking, if you encourage different opinions, you can learn what everyone is thinking and work out the best decision for the team as a whole. You don’t want a bunch of “yes” people around you or it may lead you down the wrong road.

My father, who was an admiral in the navy, used to tell me, “Ken, if you don’t hear complaining from your people, watch out because it means there’s going to be a mutiny!”  If you aren’t hearing about concerns and conflicts, it may be because your people have cut you off from the channels of communication. You need to know about those things and encourage that kind of sharing. Let your people know that they can have a different opinion and still survive around you, because you are open to hearing their ideas. It will benefit your team and, ultimately, your entire organization.

What do you do with a high performing employee whose values don’t line up with the organization?

It’s just a fact of human nature – Not everyone has the same set of values. But what should you do if you discover that one of your high performers is a values mismatch with your organization?

There are two aspects to evaluating people: One is performance and the other is citizenship—whether people are operating closely in relation to your values.

If a person is a lousy performer and also not a good values match, that’s an easy decision. The tough decision is what to do if you have a high performer who’s just not a good citizen—this person is not following your values. What do you do?  Well, if your values are important, you have to deal with it.

A few years ago we fired our top salesperson. That really sent a message out. He was a great performer, but our number one value is ethics, our number two value is relationships, number three is success, and number four is learning. He was focusing all his energy on the success value. He was doing stuff that really wasn’t right and he was stepping on other people’s toes. We talked to him and tried to work with him, but finally decided we needed to share him with our  competition.

Remember: If you don’t deal with a values mismatch and you just let it go, pretty soon your people will say, “Those values are on the wall but they don’t mean anything.” Don’t let that happen in your organization.

My boss acts like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Another big question that I get all the time…

What do you do if you have an unpredictable boss—where you never know who’s going to show up?  One day he’s upbeat and happy and thinks you’re great, and the next day you feel like you’re dealing with an ogre. I suggest two things: The first is to get your resume out there, because you might want to go find another place or another boss. The other thing, which is so important, is to never buy into the idea that your self-worth is a function of your performance plus the opinion of others. If you get hooked into that outlook on life, then your self-worth is up for grabs every day. Why? Because nobody’s performance is great every day. Have you ever noticed how fickle people are? They don’t operate the same way every day, either. So one of the things you need to deal with, if you are dealing with someone with an erratic personality, is that God did not make junk. You are absolutely beautiful. Don’t have your whole day depend on how someone else treats you. Remember that you’re a good person who is loved. Maybe that boss doesn’t quite get it yet. But he or she will.