I know that I don’t often touch on career and work issues, but I think I will begin to do this more often. I have a vast wealth of experience due to my education, the many years I spent on the trading floor, my time serving in the military, my fitness career, and overall life experience.
One truth that I believe to be universal is that you should always be taking care of your staff. I have never been in a major leadership role where I managed a large number of employees, but I have had staff directly under me throughout the years.
Anyone who reported or was lead by me would attest that I am fair leader. I would never ask anything of you that I myself would not do or have not already done. If I can make your life easier by helping, or scheduling things around you, I do. If there is an opportunity to offer recognition and reward, be that financial or otherwise, I try and provide it.
I feel that it is extremely important to establish trust and rapport with your team members and employees. In the military, they tried to create barriers between us. I remember when I was made an element leader, I was told that I had to rule through fear. That I could not get close to anyone or they would not obey or respect me.
The only people who are your friends are these other 3 element leaders and the dorm chief. Everyone else is a subordinate and must obey your commands at all times.
I didn’t agree with this philosophy, and I treated my men well. This created friendship and loyalty to a degree, but it also got me fired as element leader because they wanted me to be a jerk. At the end of the day, if your team doesn’t support you, you will fail. I understood that this was basic training, and that it was meant to be a challenging space, but I was one of the guys too, and I got them to work through different methods.
After basic training, I was made a green rope. This was another leadership role, and my job was to supervise certain areas and report any infractions. I kept a watchful eye, and addressed matters as they came up. However, I did my best to resolve things at my level as opposed to escalating to one of the sergeants. There were a few times that I had no choice but to escalate, but I did my best to minimize this. I had a good relationship with most of the airmen, and they respected me and the rules, same as I respected them and the rules.
In the corporate world, I was also extremely fair, sometimes too much. I recall one employee, he was relatively young, and was still partying often. Many times he would show up to work at 11am with a start time of 9am. My shift started at 8am, and that’s when things were popping at the office. By the time he got in, I had stabilized all the morning ruckus. If we had 50 tickets to resolve in that day, 30 of them came to me in the morning before he arrived. It made for stressful a.ms, especially when I had to perform updates or other major projects on the entire floor.
I was younger myself, and I didn’t want to hurt this guy, so I never dropped dime. However, the arrangement that I came up with was that once he arrived, the floor was his. Every ticket that came in after 11am was to be fielded by him. I then took this time to work on my managerial tasks and other projects that would be difficult to carry out if I was fielding calls. The only time I’d get involved was when it was a major outage, or something he didn’t know. We worked it out among ourselves in a way where we both benefited. Though granted, I know this was not the best approach, it worked for me at the time.
The common thread you should be seeing here is that I never abused my power, even when I was given a green light and encouraged to do so. Recently, I watched the Stanford Prison Experiment, and I noticed how abusive and terrible some of the guards became. I don’t know why or how they allowed this to happen, I don’t think that I would have allowed that. Based on my track record, and real life experience, including being fired as an element leader for refusing to be a jerk, I think I’m accurate in my analysis.
Being a good leader is more than just knowing your job. It’s about knowing your people, knowing how to talk to them, how to get them to respect you willingly while still being in command and getting things done. There are times when an iron fist may be necessary, but understand that without the support from your staff, you will almost certainly fail. Use the fist sparingly and get your team on board with your vision. You’ll go way further that way.