Leadership Meme: Bosses Depend On Authority – Leaders Depend On Goodwill

There are millions of memes and clichés about leadership floating around the internet. There are also hundreds of thousands of books written on leadership, advanced degree programs, and a wide array of resources and assessments.

A meme is, “A humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users.” I’ve observed this meme over the past few months and read a number of comments that strongly agree with this comparison. It’s really an unfair comparison and shows that some people don’t understand the true nature of leadership. Leadership is tough and the qualities listed above sound good in theory, but are unrealistic in some ways.

True leaders are not only leaders in the workplace, but they are also leaders in the community, their families and in other areas. When people are fed unrealistic information on how their leaders should show up for them, it creates tension, stress and anxiety for leaders who are giving their all in many different areas.

Bosses depend on authority and leaders on goodwill sounds good, but it doesn’t take into account the other 99.95% of the equation. The trustworthiness of the people they are leading and the culture of the organization.

To create goodwill amongst a group of people takes an extended period of time. You have build trust, reputation and credibility. It also takes just as much growth on the part of the employee as it does the leader. It’s a cohesive team working toward the same goal, not just the leader out front expected to just believe what their employees will say. This expectation has more to do with culture than an individual leader.

Early in my career, there was a mid-grade manager (we’ll call him Tony) that called in sick regularly. When questioned by leadership on his whereabouts, my supervisor would look like a deer in the headlights because he didn’t know. O_O This happened at least once a week and was embarrassing to all involved, and caused anxiety for my supervisor.

Tony was a valuable asset to the office for his expertise and 10+ career span. His illnesses of choice were pink eye and strep throat, and although he was out sick a few times a month, he never missed a basketball or golf tournament.

When my supervisor left for extended training, Tony became the responsibility of my good friend, who eventually became the deer in the headlights. Tony’s age and career span compared to ours was intimidating, because we were young and only had 3 years of experience. However, I started to see the writing on the wall because if she left, I would become the deer. 🙂

When she departed for training, Tony and I sat down for a candid conversation because it was not my desire to be stressed out because of his actions. I showed him a 6 month timeline on my calendar that noted all his illnesses and tournament attendances. We also talked about the realistic recovery time of pink eye and strep throat, which were more than a day. The look on his face was priceless.

I then asked about his goals and he expressed frustration because he wanted to be promoted, but stalled out and couldn’t figure out why. He started to look down on himself, was becoming depressed and non-productive at work. We talked about how he fit into the big picture and what happened to the leaders when he was not present (disarray, anxiety and disorganization abound); so he was very valuable to us and the good order of the office. Apparently, no one had ever told him that he was valuable. I then told him that it was never my intent to be embarrassed like the others and if he was “really” sick, we needed a doctor’s note and he needed to call me personally.

Two months later, I conducted an experiment with his evaluation and marked him high; at the level that he had the capacity to perform and not where he was currently. It was a signal of – this is where I see you now, so grow into it…and he did! He became one of the highest performing members in the office and never reverted back! He also became one of the happiest people in the office, his posture changed, he rearranged his desk to be more visible to the leaders that needed him and eventually got promoted and continued to accelerate in leadership levels.

Goodwill and authority are about culture and takes time to nurture and grow. Tony felt used up, and started to take advantage of the system that allowed him to. When he was held accountable for taking advantage of the system with low evaluations, which affected his promotions, he responded with lower performance. This created a cycle where the leaders and Tony looked bad. It was a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

Nearly 8 months after the conversation, we shifted from authority to goodwill with Tony. I was the last peg in the leadership chain, so it doesn’t take senior leadership to address people. EVERYONE is a leader.

A few keys in shifting from authority to goodwill with your personnel:

  1. Have an open conversation
  2. Set clear expectations of their performance
  3. Get feedback on their short and long-term goals
  4. Express appreciation of who they are
  5. Tell people how they fit in the overall picture
  6. Give them room to grow
  7. Coach them on the goals they set for themselves.

For the most part, people love to feel needed and as a valuable part of the team. A low performing employee or poor culture can be turned around with a few tweaks. This has been proven time and time again.

What are your thoughts on the authority vs goodwill? What are your experiences with authority to gain compliance?

Christy Rutherford, an Executive Leadership Strategist, trains leaders on long-standing leadership principles to assist them with realizing their full potential and increase productivity. She also coaches Type A leaders who are suffering from burnout, which impacts their performance at work and home.

Download your free workbook: “Success Roadmap – 7 Powerful Ways To Get Clear On The Results You Desire” at www.christyrutherford.com 

Check out the programs designed for you to manage your stress, reduce anxiety and significantly improve your life while you work to make a living. www.christyrutherford.com/programs

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