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Leaders vs. Loners

Leaders vs. Loners

A client of mine recently lost a key manager from his business.  This departure coincided with my client’s increased desire to get re-involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.  As he got more involved, he realized that many of the employees in the business had great ideas for how things could be done better.  But they had been unable or unwilling to step up, speak out, and take responsibility when the former manager was still there.  That manager, for all his strengths, had been something of a one-man show.  If things needed to get done, he did them.  And while this worked well for a while, in the end the other employees were not contributing all they could because they didn’t want to step on his toes.

Performance Principle:  There is a difference between a leader and a loner.  Leaders draw the best out of other people.  Loners, even talented ones, ultimately limit the contributions of the group by focusing on their own efforts.  Is your management team made up of leaders or loners?

Here are some points to consider:

  1. Leaders say we, loners say I.  The best leaders take pleasure in the achievements of others.  If you have a manager who focuses on his own efforts, remind him that leadership is about encouraging the efforts of others.
  2. Leaders take people along; loners leave their passenger seat empty.  Most of the best teaching and mentoring in business (and life) is informal. Good leaders take their people along with them to meetings, conferences, and presentations.  They know that in addition to participating in the session itself, great coaching happens driving to and from meetings or over beer at the hotel after a big presentation.
  3. Leaders set goals for their people; loners leave people to their own devices.  The best employees are always thinking about their own future.  If the leaders in your organization do not define goals and career path for these people, you risk losing them.  Good leaders are always thinking ahead about the future of their key people.
  4. Leaders encourage communication, loners squelch it.  The last things you need in your organization are fiefdoms and turf fights.  Leaders who are secure have no problem with their people communicating freely with others in the organization, including with those at the top.  Insecure leaders require all communication to flow through them. Don’t tolerate control-freak behavior from your leaders – it is a sign of weakness not strength.
  5. Leaders develop successors, loners regard themselves as indispensable. At the brokerage and financial firm Edward Jones, you cannot be considered for a promotion until you have identified internal candidates to take your current job.  The best leaders develop other leaders who can fill their shoes.  Are your leaders developing other leaders or just developing followers?
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