I was shaving my face the other day and things got ugly. Blood, sweat, and tears ugly. In the process of this single shave, I cut my neck, my lip, and the skin alongside my jawline. The white sink began to splatter red.
Now, at the gamble of getting gross, I’ll stop my story here (too late?) Anyway, it made me think. I concluded that a few factors are in play here – the person, the circumstance, and the tool. In most cases, the setup of these three factors is what determines our failure or success. In my case that morning, my mood was on the positive side, the circumstance was very familiar, and the tool was excellent. So, what went wrong?
I didn’t let the tool do the work.
I tried to force the tool to cut deeper and faster. I pushed. In other words, I led from behind. This can be the pattern of poor leaders as well. Poor leaders push others from behind. They force individuals to do things through manipulation and fear. They call their employees “staff”, or “workers”, or “operatives.” Poor leaders treat individuals as if they are expendable – like the cheap, flat, wrench tool that comes in an Ikea box.
Of course, we must guide the tool, as good supervisors do. Guidance is leadership. The dictionary states that synonyms to ‘guidance’ include: leadership; instruction; direction. Choose the right tool and let it perform to the best of its ability, with our guidance. Similarly, hire the right person and let them perform to the best of their ability with our guidance. The person and the tool go hand-in-hand, so to speak.
Great leaders create a vision – a daring destination – and go first to show others where we’re going. They inspire, guide, and partner with the individuals on their team. They lead by example because they love what they do, and they truly value the individuals on their team. They value the people in their lives because of who they are, as opposed to only what they accomplish.
This notion of leadership has been adopted in many ways, by many respected leaders:
The person. The circumstance. The tool. All need to align to produce the best results. Respect the tool. The tool is the instrument that is the catalyst for a job well done. The tool can be anything – a razor, a saw, a pen, a laptop. The one thing it cannot be… it cannot be your employee. If we see our employees as tools, we need an intense lesson in leadership.
Treat a person like a tool, and they’ll move on. As they should. Guide a person into success, and when they’re ready to move on, they will be a more talented and wiser individual. As will we.
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