The Unvarnished Truth About Leadership (Part 1)

Leadership.  There seems to be a lot of ink being spilled about what makes a good boss.  Or what makes a good leader.  Or what kind of person is the best kind to work for.

I am usually amused by the articles because they are often written by frustrated or wronged employees, wise professionals with lots of education who have never actually led teams and journalists who interview the always ready influential celebrity entrepreneur with the profound words of self-importance.

Since my partner and I are in the business of helping ordinary entrepreneurs get extraordinary results using ONLY proven techniques, I’d like to share one of my own tales from the trenches about what makes a good boss or leader.  Especially as it pertains to helping you survive and thrive the next decade.

Some of The Experience That Qualifies Me To Talk Leadership

About a decade ago, I along with 3,500 other employees around the world were given our pink slips at the large manufacturing company where I was the general manager. On my last day, I went around and shook the hands of every employee. Sales. Admin. Factory workers. Truck drivers. Every single one of the 126 employees. Many of whom I had known for the nine years I worked there.

Each one of the employees, hugged and kissed me and cried on my shoulder. Devastated that I was leaving. And the paradox was that I was the toughest taskmaster they had ever had. Our plant went from nothing to the best in every single measurement category and outshone all 19 other subsidiaries. A similar thing had happened years ago when my team had delivered three times the profit expected. And five years after the afore mentioned plant experience, a similar reaction occurred with the company I took through the bankruptcy courts.

So I think I safely speak about managing teams and about leadership issues from a true dirty hands perspective.

I Was Not A Born Leader Or Manager

In fact, when I was first promoted to one at 25, I was terrible. But I had two things going for me.

1. A terrific team who DAILY told me how bad I was, what I needed to do to fix things, to make their lives better and,

2. A burning desire to be amazing every damn day.

So I grudgingly listened and worked on it.

I read every single management book I could get my hands on. I hated criticism, from the ‘underlings, but I took it. I decided early on that criticism was a gift to me and that I would pay attention. And I did a helluva lot of faking. Fake smiling. Fake enthusiasm. Fake joking. Fake everything. I did this mainly so no one would sense how hard I was working to look like I was at ease.

And it all worked. For a while. I kept getting more staff. And more promotions. And lots more staff. And lots more promotions. And way more money. And in five years, I was Miss Fancy Pants with a gigantic reputation for leading teams and getting things done.

But the problem was, the getting things done part was killing me. I thought I had to be involved in everything. I thought that because the buck stopped with me, that meant I had to do all the last-minute tops and tails on it too.

I was spending way too much time moving everyone along. And doing their stuff and mine.

Until one day a wonderful team member sat me down and told me what I was doing wrong and read me the riot act. You aren’t leading Charlene. You have to put your big girl pants on and Lead. ‘But I have all this work to do.’

No, that is not your job. Your job is to Lead. That is your only job. Come to grips with that!

It took me another ten years to figure out, screw up, start again, screw up, start again and learn how to Lead. It is not easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it is a piece of cake.

As a matter of fact, I believe Leadership is both the hardest and the most exhilarating part of being alive.  Yes, of being alive.  Because it is all about people. Getting ordinary people to do extraordinary things. I proved it to myself I could do it. I was put through umpteen psychological tests to see if I was ‘good enough.’ I was. And I showed so many how it can be done.

And for your instruction and/or edification, Part 2 of this series will summarize what all those years and all that learning actually taught me.  I believe with all my heart you need to be the best leader you can be.  Else you will NOT survive the next decade.

To your success!