The leader must be the first to openly share their omissions, errors, and weaknesses with those they live and work with. The leader is the primary role model, whether out in front, standing in the limelight, or exercising power behind closed doors. It is impossible for those that hold influence over others to avoid responsibility for the behavior of those under their wings.
The parent is the child’s role model, which also is true of teachers and other leaders people follow. Hierarchy exists everywhere as an unavoidable fact regardless of desires or attempts to flatten the leadership pyramid. Looking back at my leadership style, I believe I tried to give voice and courage to those I led. I wanted them to be their most honest selves, but only they would know to what degree I succeeded.
I will never forget the outstanding, capable secretary I had. On many mornings, when I came to work preoccupied, I did not acknowledge her with a good morning greeting. Then, one morning as I entered the office, she began to cry. Seeing her tears, I stopped and asked her what was wrong. She voiced her fears, as my behavior had her wondering if she had made some mistake or if I did not like her.
I held her in my arms and explained that I was somewhere else, that she was not one of my problems, and that I loved her. I told her that often I have much on my mind and only see the work I have in front of me. After that, I made it a point to acknowledge her each day, and she grew strong enough in our relationship that she made me present whenever I appeared to be somewhere else. Her voice was loud and clear.
The power to influence is incredible, and those wielding this influence must do so wisely. While empowering followers is only one of a leader’s vast responsibilities, it is perhaps the most important.