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Lead, don’t assault!

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.”  -President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Above is one of my favorite quotes.  There’s such a dynamic message in those few words.  We’ve all known people who have confused commands with leadership.  Perhaps we’ve even been one of them.

Barking out orders may be effective in the short run, but long-term effective leadership requires building relationships and demonstrating mutual respect.

I recently encountered a “leader” who has been tasked with heading up the human resources department of a sizeable organization.  After only a few months in the role, here’s what her team of HR pros share about her:

  • She spends a significant portion of her day attempting to impress us with all of her accomplishments, certifications, and supreme knowledge.  She is more focused on admiring her own virtues than on professional development of her team.  She is not building relationships.
  • If there is a mistake made by the team, she berates us about our failures—never including herself as part of the team or using the word, “we.”
  • She believes that her job is to command the department.  In her mind, she is above us.  We work.
  • She leads.She spends all of her time talking about us rather than to us.

Now, listen to what she says:

  • I can’t trust these people.  They snoop around my office when I’m not here.  I’m having the locks changed on my office so they can’t access it.
  • They don’t respect me.  They talk about me behind my back.
  • They don’t value my processes.
  • This team doesn’t appreciate my talent and skills.  Maybe they’re not a good fit.

Wow.  What an opportunity for the rest of us to learn what not to do.  In the world of leadership, “subordinate” is not a synonym for “inferior.”  Respect for your team builds loyalty.

A team wants to follow a leader they trust.  A leader needs to be able to trust the team.  You don’t get there by “hitting people over the head.”



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