Work for Those Who Work for You

I recently purchased a leadership book at a local ministry store when I went in to donate some clothes. The book was called “the Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership” by Steven B. Sample. He was a very successful college president at the University of Southern California. The title of this post is one of the chapters in the book. It has some great principles that I have followed as well in my career.

One of my earliest introductions to real leadership came when I became a school principal in Atlanta at age thirty. The chapter stated that hiring direct reports, evaluating them and praising them should only take 10% of your time. The remaining 90% of your time should be spent doing everything you can to help your your leadership team succeed.
This means:
returning their calls promptly
– answering their email promptly
– listening carefully to their plans and problems
– calling on others at their request
– help them to formulate goals and finally helping them to develop strategies for achieving those goals.

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng

Great leaders know effective day-to-day leadership isn’t much about himself , as much it is about those to whom you lead.

The best executive is the one who recruits the most competent men or women around, tells them what he wants done, and then gets out of the way” ~ Teddy Roosevelt.

I believe this quote too but actively assisting them and forge them into an effective team can be better. Throughout history, the best leaders have not been the one who operates high above their followers but ones who could recruit great talent and could mold it into a collective and compelling vision.

A challenge for most new leaders is hiring people who are “not” similar to themselves, but rather hiring skills that make up for the leader’s own weaknesses. The advantage of having this talent diversity is worth the pain and effort.

One of the greatest gift you can provide is to protect your direct report from their own support team. Many people have good and bad intentions in communicating up the chain of command. It is not uncommon for a leader to quit because of followers are getting the attention of his/her boss too often.

I will never forget the complaint letter that I was sent by my Atlanta boss who was responding to a school parent. My boss’ letter indicated that he was directing them back to me and I would given the first opportunity to address the problem. It is easy to skip the leader in the chain with email today. It is not good practice for leaders to take on problems that have skipped your direct report. We should try to show them respect in the way we respond.

Great leaders work for those who work for them.

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