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Fighting is Easy. Leading is harder.

Fighting is Easy. Leading is harder. It might be ringing in your brain as you’re thinking I’ve heard that somewhere before. That’s because it’s a riff on a wonderful line from Hamilton that has been stuck in my brain for a while now. “Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder.” 

Too often we substitute good leadership with fighting with our teams. We think that yelling at them, scaring them, or intimidating them will get them to accomplish what we want. This always makes me think of the leaders of yesterday who would yell in meetings and slam their fists on the table. It was a perverse technique and one that still lingers on today. 

Why does it continue?

The reason that it continues to exist is that it often does get results. It puts employees in a place where they are scared of the outcomes if they don’t do exactly as they’re told. As a result, people assume they’re doing a good job leading when their metrics are showing good outcomes. One of the many problems with this is that it’s short lived. People can only operate in an environment of fear for so long before they hit a point of burnout

When the team hits this point, things start to breakdown. People stop caring if they meet expectations because they know they’ll get yelled at either way. Some people will start looking for a new role and they will take with them all the knowledge and training you have provided. You then have to start all over with new team members, assuming anyone even wants to join this toxic team. 

But it works….

While this may get results to me this is not what good leadership looks like. It’s much easier to fight, yell and walk away than it is to take the time and energy that’s required to be a good leader. The best leaders I have worked for, and the leader I aspire to be, understand their teams as individuals and as a whole. A team is an entity of its own and every time a team member changes so does the team. You start back at the normingphase of team development. The unique learning, life and communication dynamics of the team shape the team as a whole. 

This means you need to understand each member of your team as the unique being that they are. How does this team member learn the best? What is their favorite communication technique? How do they respond to stress? What is their life like at home? Do they bring other stresses to work that impact their day? How do they handle conflict? What motivates them to get a task done? 

Seeing the whole person

As you can imagine this takes time and energy. The good news is there are tests and companies (like us!) that can help you assess the individual and the team more quickly. You will still need to devote your energy to understanding and leveraging those results. None of these tests can answer the question of what their lives look like outside of work. Show your team you care about them by asking regular, thoughtful questions and remembering the details of their lives. 

When you lead a team this way and treat them with respect you will find yourself leading more high performing teams. It isn’t a coincidence, it’s your leadership. Your teams will want to work with and for you. They will want to meet metrics and goals because they value your opinion and praise. Most importantly they will want to make the team, themselves and their leaders successful. Invest the time in your team now and it will pay huge dividends in the future.

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