I think like everyone, I want to be a good leader. I think like any leader, the definition of good is dependent on who is listening to your message, and what they take away from that message. Leaders are constantly asked to walk a fine line – do what is right for the business and do what is right for our employees. Most of you know, these two things don’t go in opposite directions, but run parallel in the same direction (although many times, our employees don’t feel they are traveling in the same direction). It’s not one or the other – business vs. employees – it’s both. You need the health of both groups, one can’t live without the other – although – sometimes both sides think that one can live without the other.
In my 20 years of professional background, I think what I’ve learned from watching both good and bad leaders is that your ability to walk that fine line successfully – determines your fate. It’s a very small margin for error. You must be fair, consistent and above all communicate in an up front, transparent way, when you can. Before I was put into a leader position – I didn’t get this fine line. I would be frustrated with my leaders – why didn’t they support us more, why did they seemingly always support the business? I vowed, when I was a leader, I’d be that person they didn’t have the courage to be. It’s funny how careers have a way of giving you what you ask for!
The best HR leader I ever worked for gave me some advice, and frequently I reach back for it. He said, “Tim, employees will never throw you a party when you take something away. But if it is the right thing to do, then you have to do it. Because they will throw you a going away party when you get fired for not doing the right thing.” He wanted to know if I wanted to be the kind of leader that employees wanted to throw a party for, or a kind of leader that didn’t want employees to throw a party for. I think, I can do without the party.