Leadership or Manipulation in Disguise?
I stay true to one of my leadership rules of “not blowing smoke”, although I won’t take the time to further explain the rather crass reference, simply translated, I refrain from giving positive feedback that is insincere or calculated as a means of influencing the situation or person. It wasn’t always this way though; I remember taking a leadership course very early in my career, when I was first promoted into management, and the actual moment that I learned that “selling your team on a concept” or “spinning” a leadership initiative to get your team on board was not leadership, it was manipulation in disguise. I remember feeling sheepish at the news that what I had thought was a masterful skill was actually a weakness that I was masking.
My weakness, I learned, was lacking the confidence to explain a company initiative that could result in my team taking an opposing view against the company or myself. Rather than risk what I perceived as a dire consequence, I “sold” my team on why decisions were made and how it benefited them. This was poor leadership at its finest and most ignorant. Operating with a lack of transparency was self-serving and not beneficial to my team as it prevented them from understanding the core beliefs and values that surrounded decisions that our company was making. Further, as a leader in the business, it was important that they saw that I was fully endorsing the initiative and fully believed in the messaging.
Leadership means having honest conversations and taking the time to explain the “why” behind the “what” when it comes to a company initiative or directive. It means having the courage to ask questions of your leaders as to the decision making that went into the initiative to grasp a full understanding of how it fits into the overall big picture. More importantly, showing that you operate with transparency allows for greater buy in and support from your team. Although this was very early in my career, I still cringe looking back at what was somewhat of an egocentric decision in the sense that I had believed that my team was on a need to know basis because they were not in management roles. That violates trust, an essential building block for strong teams. The next time you find yourself shying away from straight talking and leaning more toward selling your team on an initiative, remember, manipulation is used when you are focused on your own interest (or your company’s interest) whereas leadership is when you have your own (or company), your team, and your customers’ interests in mind. After I made the decision to operate in transparency, I began to see a team filled with much more purpose and understanding. It was at that time that I started to see my team operating as a more cohesive group rather than individual sales representatives. Build trust with transparency and you will begin to lead a team with purpose.
Make it a great day!
--Letty Sanchez, Principal Consultant, AEM Executive Consultants