The article also reminded me of something I've been working on for a while now, something that I really do need to finish one of these days. That something is to more clearly define my own personal leadership philosophy. I put a few minutes into it every now and then, but post some other things coming up in the next few weeks I'm going to really work on calling it more or less complete.
Anyway, at the center of my nascent leadership philosophy is a simple idea:
Be a decent human being.
Yes, I firmly believe that leaders, more so than anyone else in an organization, and regardless of who and what they lead, have a special obligation to be decent human being before anything else.
This doesn't mean that, for example, as a leader, you don't make tough decisions. A leader can make tough and unpopular decisions, but still, do it in a way that holds to the spirit of being a decent human being.
Have to let someone who is performing poorly go? Do it in a way that exemplifies being a decent human being. That means, for example, making sure that the employee in question has been given ample opportunities to improve their performance. That means that you have provided clear and concise feedback about what needs to be improved. And you specifically ask them why they are not adequately performing. That means when it's time to give someone their notice, you don't outsource the deed to anyone else, including Human Resources.
Have to reduce staff/lay someone who works for you off? Be a decent human being and do it in person. Explain the reasons behind the decision. Show kindness and compassion. Offer every opportunity available to you to help the employee find a new job (either in the company or externally). Be fully present and accept responsibility for the decision, even if it wasn't yours entirely to make. Accept the shock, anger and perhaps sorrow the person may be feeling(2) and demonstrate nothing but empathy in return. Being a decent human being means that you don't "dump and run".
Dealing with a lot of change in your team/organization/company? Being a decent human being means that you go out of your way to make yourself available to answer questions(3), even if you don't have all the answers. It means that you have an information sharing switch that defaults to "share" unless there is a compelling business reason to do the opposite. It means that you make dealing with your team's uncertainty a top priority instead of simply hoping it will go away.
Lastly, being a decent human being means that you are as friendly and respectful to the maintenance staff, cafeteria workers and all those others who serve you as you are to executives you want to impress. Put another way, if you know the name of the highest ranking person in your organization but not the name of the person you see every day that empties your trash, well, I'm sorry but you're not succeeding in the "being a decent human being" arena.
By the way, if you think this is so simple that it doesn't need to be said, well, I'd say in return that you're not working in a typical organization these days. As noted above, there's a lot of horrible going on. This is difficult stuff, and I openly admit that I fail sometimes to be a truly decent human being. That noted I do have one thing going for me: I do keep trying (to be a decent human being).
(1) Michele; you can find her blog HERE. You can find out more about her business HERE.
(2) Even towards you. Note that they may want nothing to do with you, and that's their choice. Your choice, however, is to be a decent human being.
(3) As opposed to avoiding questions.