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CHICAGO — Where has true leadership gone, and can it be recaptured? Quite frankly, no one knows, as the definition of leadership seems to change as often as the wind changes direction.
It’s amazing — when you look at those who call themselves leaders in our industry, many are self-proclaimed, many earned their stripes by coming up through the ranks, some think leadership is inherited, some just fell into the role, some entered their positions through political techniques, and some just plain worked their you-know-what off until someone recognized that they might be capable. Real leadership can only be recaptured by true leaders.
In a truly successful work environment that’s stimulating and energizing, people, that’s you and I, are empowered to work better and smarter, and naturally the expectation is to achieve more. In my years of experience (and believe me, I have experienced all types of leaders in my career), leaders help followers to lead themselves.
Leaders who are self-proclaimed, either by title or attitude, are usually able to gain the trust and respect of their followers. They assume this, by the way, but usually these self-proclaimed types fail by not helping others to develop their careers. They’re only interested in self-accomplishment, and might only share this success with a limited number of others.
I’m continually amazed when the leaders of committees take a self-centered approach. The committee leader might think he or she speaks for the committee, when in fact, he or she fails to communicate with the group. This means that when you read that a committee did this or did that, it’s actually the leader of the committee (usually the self-proclaimed type) who made a recommendation to a governing body, with no input from the committee he or she chairs. You know who you are.
If you are a true leader, you should always be in the process of building other leaders, not followers, who can play special roles in transforming an organization. Growing and developing leaders from the ranks isn’t just a duty, it’s an obligation. I’m proud to say that I was able to achieve this type of result in my own career, in spite of the leadership I’ve had to work with. I’m not so sure whom to thank, but I’m sure the leaders who developed me, including my parents, played a special role.
A leader must give exposure to those whom they are developing as leaders. In other words, a leader needs to delegate, not circumvent, exposure opportunities. Sometimes, a leader backing off and becoming a leader is more challenging than expected, as it’s easier to jump into the pool of opportunity and seize success when you’re already there. Leaders need to lead and not jump at every opportunity to be seen and heard. That’s a developmental approach to delegation and growing leadership in an organization.
Don’t write memos about this or that — just do it, sit back, and become the leader, not the driver. Become results-oriented in lieu of a results caretaker.
And a warning to young leaders out there: Know all the facts before you set policy and procedure. Use your teams, and don’t forget all the members of those teams you manage. Utilization of these resources makes leaders more efficient, and organizations thrive on this technique.