Part of the Series: "Leadership Principles For Young Professionals & Millennials
One of the easiest mistakes to make as a young leader is to give in to the pressures of leaping right to getting your team to high levels of productivity as quick as possible. It is a natural ambition to want to prove you are deserving of that promotion. You want to prove those who promoted you that they are correct in their judgement, and you want respect from your peers and those you are now leading that you earned this opportunity to lead. In order to solidify these opinions and perceptions, you drive hard to meet performance metrics and standards right away. What so many newly promoted leaders neglect to realize is that they are actually driving nails into a ceiling that will limit your potential as a leader.
One of the most commonly overlooked leadership principles is “Know Your People and Look out for Their Welfare.” In other words, establish and build trust with your people. This principle was critical to every leader in the Marine Corps. We had a rule that if your Marines did not come to you with their problems, they did not trust you. If they don’t trust you, you will be exposed to more risks and failures than those who do have the trust of their people. You don’t have to know so much that you intrude on their privacy, but you should know enough to know what motivates them, what troubles them, what issues they may be facing both personally and professionally. You must take on that servant leader mentality to make sure you help them tackle their challenges, minimize their weaknesses, and maximize their strengths. When you, as a leader, do these things for your people, your team will return the same to you tenfold.
I have witnessed fellow Marine officers allowed to fail because their Marines did not trust them. What I mean by “allowed to fail,” is that they followed orders literally. If an officer gave an order that his Marines knew was the wrong thing to do, they’d do it anyway. Because accountability is a way of life in the Marines, that officer would find himself answering to his leadership for issuing that order. Had that officer built trust and rapport with his Marines, they would have advised him on the error of that order (especially the more senior enlisted Marines who had many years serving already), and helped him make the right decisions. I can’t tell you how many times my Marines kept me from making mistakes. I was never the best performing officer as an individual, but I made sure I dedicated myself to looking out for my Marines, because, in return, they looked out for me. And I live this principle still today.
About a year ago, I sat with a CEO of a firm. We were discussing leadership, and the subject of a top performer recently leaving came up. He mentioned how disappointed he was in the person who left because he did not communicate personal desires and issues he was facing. I shared with him what I just shared with you about how it’s a leadership shortfall when your people don’t trust you enough to come to you with their issues. Like most CEOs, he disagreed with me on that sentiment and held the opinion that it was the responsibility of the person who left to have communicated with his leaders. Today, that CEO struggles with keeping people, especially top performers. People in that firm are secondary to metrics and revenue. Ironically, if he, along with the rest of his executive leaders, would get to know their people and look out for their welfare, those metrics would be met, and revenue would exceed expectations, because his people would not let him fail.
Wherever you are in your career, make sure you get to know your people and look out for their welfare. If you have aspirations of reaching your maximum potential, this principle is not an option. One thing to note as well, every time you have a new team, you must re-emphasize this principle. It is not a badge you get to wear that states you are certified as trust worthy. This principle is a daily activity, not a milestone.
I leave you with a quote from John Maxwell: “Your people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Agoge Leadership Development
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