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.
I try to be a catalyst for change and improvement. Some of my ideas are spot-on, many are works in progress, and, admittedly, others miss the mark. That’s the nature of brainstorming and trying things. I’m okay with that. My hope is that something I write or share will help you to become a better version of yourself. I know that’s what I’m trying to do as well.