On Leading – why people matter

October 9, 2009

*If you are the leader, your people expect you to create their future. They look into your eyes, and they expect to see strength and vision. To be successful, you must inspire and motivate those who are following you. When they look into your eyes, they must see that you are with them. – *Gordon R. Sullivan

I like that.

I like the idea that a leader must be out there with the people that you are trying to lead. They must understand that you are invested in their futures and in them personally.

Management is a very personal thing, in my opinion, as you must invest time know your people and to understand what motivates them. This implies that the leader cares about his people, at least enough to know their limitations and needs. A good manager knows that people are not cogs in the machine of business, despite what we may hear or secretly tell ourselves. Person A cannot easily be replaced by Person B without a transaction cost, sometimes significant. People are the true assets of any organization. They hold the knowledge, the expertise, and the will to get things done. Without the people you are leading no task can truly be executed to its completion. The bottom line is that as a leader you need your teams far more than they need you.

A good manager knows his people:

  • What motivates them?
  • What do they like?
  • What do they hate?
  • How far can they be pushed before they break?

The last point deserves some discussion I think. Let me be upfront. I am a very demanding manager. I expect the best and demand the best despite any adversity that may come. I expect my teams to adapt and overcome and they do, despite me being there. While I try not to push my teams excessively hard it is necessary to understand how individuals on the team react to stressful situations. What will they do when a deadline has been moved dramatically? What will they do when a client has unreasonable or unachievable demands? This knowledge is essential to the business of leadership.  Only when I know what my team is capable of can I put them in the best position to succeed.

That is our ultimate goal as leaders is it not? Put people in a position where they can succeed. When our individuals succeed our teams suceed and subsequently our projects succeed. Now this is not always the case as there are, of course, outside factors which can affect the results despite your best intentions. I will get to that topic soon.