I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motivation and what makes a good leader. This usually happens when I’m stuck in traffic, and I’m left wondering what’s motivating me to continue driving into the office. Money? Yeah, that’s one reason, but not the only reason, nor even a major one. Co-workers? Yeah, I work with some pretty cool, smart, funny people, and I don’t want to let them down by not doing my job.
Really, though, what motivates me most is a boss who trusts me, treats me like an adult, and knows when to get out of the way and let me do my job the way I know how it should be done. So when I saw an article online today titled “Why Your Organization Suffers From Leadership Dysfunction” by Mike Myatt, I immediately had to read it.
Too often, though, bosses lead by fear. They either fear employees screwing something up, or they fear their own inability to lead. In essence, they become risk managers and not leaders. Myatt wrote:
Leadership has become synonymous with babysitting in many organizations, which does nothing more than signal a lack of trust in the workforce. I can think of no time in modern history where employees feel less valued and trusted. Remember, a leaders job is not to place people in a box, but to free them from boxes.
That phrase, “free them from boxes,” reminded me of a point I read in another article titled “When Your Character Leads the Charge, Everyone Owns the Goal,” by Don Shapiro. In the article, he poses seven questions “you can ask yourself to learn more about your own character and how it may affect your leadership effectiveness.” My favorite is No. 4 on the list.
Do you encourage people to become leaders themselves and support them when they spread their leadership wings?
You can only support someone if you trust them and trust yourself that you coached them correctly. Shapiro’s question reminded me of another article I recently read titled “Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults” by Tony Schwartz. He wrote:
Distrust begets distrust in return. It kills motivation rather than sparking it. Treat employees like children and you increase the odds they’ll act like children. You reap what you sow — for better and for worse.
Which takes us back to Myatt’s article and his ideas about why there is rampant dysfunctional leadership. He wrote:
Many corporations just desire leaders to go along and get along more than they desire them to lead.
That’s not a sustainable model, though. We need leaders who encourage experimentation, who turn away from conformity, who trust their employees enough that autonomy is part of a job function and not a reward. Because if we don’t get those types of leaders, Myatt warns:
Until organizations reject those playing leadership and embrace those willing to challenge the status quo, offer new thought, encourage dissenting opinion, and who desire to serve instead of seeking to be served, we’ll continue to see organizations struggle unnecessarily.
Yeah, that’s what I think about when I’m driving to work. Now, if I could work from home, I’d probably just go straight from my bed to my computer, start working, and not think about any of this.
Do you consider yourself a good leader? Why? Or do you work for a good leader? Why is that person good? Please let me know in the comments.
(Image via Flickr: opensource.com/Creative Commons)