I knew it was not going to take long for Loyd to get me back for my, ehhem, outburst the last time we spoke. How was I to know that he had the client on speaker, while golfing? Thankfully, the client did not seem offended as he ended the call with a little trash talk in expressing I am a better golfer than Loyd, which probably sent Loyd into golf orbit. I suspect Loyd has been practicing his game, since I was on my way to join him for a round while I was in Orlando.

Even though, Jack our client seemed fine at the end of our last conversation, I still couldn’t shake the feeling my Dr. Merlot “straight talk” had potentially offended him. Normally, I don’t care much because truth is truth and people need to hear it, but since I talked so freely not knowing Jack was on the phone in addressing Loyd’s question last month about “Is enhancement of personal lifestyle reasonable motivation for growth?” I was certain I had stepped in it somehow. This made me reflect more on a topic we are seeing more and more when clients are focused on building teamwork. What has become increasingly clear, especially with the multiple generations in a workspace, is the impact of tone and communication and how it relates to strong leadership.

Before Loyd could get his firs t-shot off, I thought this might be a good topic to dive into, while also offering myself up as the sacrificial token in a means of saying I was sorry. For the next eighteen holes, Loyd and I discussed how management style impacts people, attitude, recruitment and retention and overall culture of the business. Loyd also asked me to express my thoughts on leaders who try to rule from a place of positional power. Needless to say, this conversation took up the majority of our golf round, and could have continued into the dinner we had later that evening.

Loyd and I first focused our discussion on managers who “rule” from a place of positional power. What I shared with Loyd is it’s a touchy subject. It requires leaders to identify their style, and in most cases, make adjustments because positional power, or influence, is commonly a factual or implied superior role. We see it directly with owners, department managers, bosses, older siblings, or parents. It is, in simple terms, a “power” position where the leader uses their title or standing to influence those around them, and it often leads to malicious compliance.

The term positional implies that a supervisor, more commonly referred to as the boss or “da man” (as in man-agement), tells employees under his or her supervision what to do, how to do it, when to start and when to stop and then hovers from his/her position to make sure that his/her mandates are fulfilled. That’s what I call primal management or “bossment”. In the absence of the hovering “man/boss,” uninspired disenfranchised employees do as they wish, propelled by resentment for “da man” who has never expressed confidence in their ability to think or act on their own initiative.

Here is where the problem lies. Employees of a positional leader will not take the risk to innovate or analyze the virtue of their efforts. This is because they do not want to be exposed to the attitude of the boss who has told them what to do. A boss can only rule as far as his/her visibility are predisposed with pleasing, placating or distracting the boss, not being genuinely productive. Bosses satisfy their personal insecurities and idiosyncrasies. They do not develop critical thinkers and are not able due to the limitations of their ways and means, meaning they are not able to optimize productivity.

The fact is, in today’s business environment, leaders do not have employees, they have team members. Employees more and more see themselves as part of the organization rather than just being employed by the organization. In addition, leaders develop those around them, develop confidence in their ability, promoting teamwork and inspiring team members to evaluate, collaborate and innovate.

Team members, versus employees, have self-esteem based upon the confidence that has been expressed in them and the belief that they are making a critical contribution to a goal that could never be achieved without the collaborative efforts of everyone involved. This self-esteem inspires them to do their best irrespective of the visibility of the leader. There is no limit to what a leader can do because all those who make the team become leaders in their own right results in a magical productive force known as synergy.

That said, Loyd and I also discussed the paradigm shift that is taking place in businesses and organizations today, in part thanks to the multi-generations working together in the same space. Owners, leaders and those in roles that model leadership behavior are having to shift from looking for compliance from their people and over to commitment. The leadership profile is changing from positional to personal influence where the leader is no longer using authority, but offering information, not using rewards for compliance, but rewarding expertise, and moving from being disciplinary as a first course of action to looking at goodwill and taking into consideration that there is another human involved.

In the end, Loyd and I found ourselves on the same side of the debate, which sometimes happens. Perhaps Loyd was in good spirits because I let him win this round golf. Either way, we agreed that effective leadership focuses on influencing others in such a way that they develop a commitment to the vision, mission, and goals of the business. More importantly, it develops a team of people that want to follow the leader rather than doing so out of circumstance. Focusing on developing teams committed to the pursuit and accomplishment of a particular goal, versus a team of people committed to a person, is where the real success in leadership takes place.


Dealing with complex business, family, generational, recruitment or growth questions? Ask Dr. Merlot: drmerlot@rawlsgroup.com


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