Why should you care about how you lead and the people who follow you?

Jack Ma vs Kim

One of my friends wrote a very touching article about his recent failures and learnings about leadership. That inspired me to share some tips what I have learned. I keep failing all the time, so those stories I will save later as a comic reliefs for my presentations. This is not about how to be a good leader or a basic leadership lesson, it is about couple of tips for certain situations you will end up with when being a leader.

Need to do a big change which touches a lot of people? Just do it! 

Naturally you need all the necessary governance stuff, negotiations, change management etc, but when is the time for the execution, just do it. It does not hurt less or succeed better if you prolong it more than it should. Communicate very clearly and constantly why it needed to be done, how it will effect everyone and what is the end goal. Talk about people, about the numbers and the grand plan – your vision of why.

Everyone will not be happy. It is just how it always is. When you execute the change quick, the actual change will benefit more from the novelty effect and the people also have more time to retain and recover their motivation. If the big change takes a lot of time and happens bit-by-bit, there is no time for people to respite and regain their motivation. Future changes will come more difficult and expectations are negative. If the people have the time to adjust and they can trust some level of stability on their environment, they also become more receptive for change and trust them.

You genuinely have to care! 

The advice I got from one of my former managers is a good one, but it does not work for everyone. If you are typical Finnish engineering-oriented technology lover like me, it is sometimes difficult to care about everything and everyone you encounter – even I have learned that is possible too. 

If you do not care about things, that is easy, just delegate the responsibility to some-one who cares. You get way better results that messing the things up by yourself which you really do not care about.

If you do not genuinely care about the people, you are in trouble. You need to care or learn to care. Learn or do not lead. You can co-operate by “just concentrating on the business”, but you cannot lead or inspire that way. When people see you actually care about them, they start to trust you. When you have gained certain amount of trust, that endures over disagreements and upholds an additional level of motivation and mutual understanding. 

Don’t be a Ninja, be a Samurai! 

There is a famous advertisement saying that experience brings confidence. You need a lot of confidence to be a workplace Samurai. The Bushido code mentions the eight virtues of the Samurai and they form an ideal example of a modern leader. In this context, I would add one trait – transparency. If you can be transparent, honest and keep communicating constantly what and why you do things like you do, your life starts to get easier very fast. Again, not everyone will like that, but you need to spend a lot less time on explaining what you do and who does what on your organisation. People will also start to solve conflicts by themselves and not always seeking you as their referee.

Trust and respect! 

As the recent Harward research states, trust and respect are the first and strongest things that you are been evaluated from the start. They come together and they are also given and achieved in common. This is vital for building success and you cannot lead with out it. Giving out a lot of trust may feel like losing control, but it actually raises the results to totally different level and builds mutual respect. You cannot and should not work with the people you simply cannot trust.

Good example of a successful big change and trust is when former Cisco CEO John Chambers decided to turn his big boat around. He communicated the vision, plan and the goal transparently and honestly. He gave his top 1.500 managers a fiscal quarter time to decide if they were all in at the change. If not, they would have a significant resignation package and no hard feelings afterwards. If memory serves, more that 95% of the managers were all in and after two years, the big change was successfully completed.

Not everyone of us can make a that level of a decisions, but still the lesson is important. You cannot turn the direction if the people do not support you and if you need to force the change, you need to do it fast, honestly and you need to care and trust the people around you.