patrick leddin

Earn Respect – A Key New Leader Mindset

As a leader, formal authority will only get you so far. People may do what you tell them because you’re the leader, but they will likely not give their best. As the expression goes, you can buy someone’s back and hands, but you can’t buy their head and heart. Heads and hearts are earned when you, as a new leader, operates from a position of moral authority.

It’s important for new leaders to understand and embrace the mindset that respect must be earned through the leader’s behavior, not through an organizational coronation. Inhabiting a block in the organizational chart or wearing rank on one’s collar does not make a leader.

Being a leader is a choice and that choice means a willingness to respect others first, to solicit their input, to listen to their ideas, and to create something together. Flexing one’s leadership muscle might garner compliance, but it won’t foster commitment. Commitment, much like respect, is earned.

What about your new leaders?

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the new leader(s) you are developing:

  • How are new leaders garnering people’s commitment vice merely gaining compliance?
  • Have you heard a new leader say, or at least imply, a “Do it because I told you to do it” mindset?
  • Would the people in your organization follow your new leaders if the leader didn’t have the formal title?

Take it from me…

Twenty-plus years ago, I was an army lieutenant serving as a platoon leader of a 39-person airborne infantry platoon. As a new leader, there were times when I, like many new leaders, led from a position of formal authority. I looked to my rank for strength instead of my moral authority. The natural consequence was that they did something because I told them to do it, not because they were committed to following me. There’s a big difference.

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It sounds obvious, but most of us have a way of piling up “must-do” priorities, making it impossible to do a very good job on any of them. One recipe for disengaging people is to overwhelm them with things to do, all of which are “Job 1” and “key priorities” and “top-of-the-list.”

But if you unleash people to focus on one, two, or three wildly important goals—no more—they will sense the significance of what they’re doing and they’ll have a chance to win. There is tremendous power in focus. As you prioritize your goals, think about those things that must be done or nothing else matters, focus on those true priorities, and move lower priorities to the back burner.

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