Leadership That Matters, Part 12

I'll bet you didn't anticipate a Part 12.  Neither did I, but it seems to be a pretty popular discussion (from the hits aspect), although you wouldn't know it from the comments and likes.  So in order to see if I am engaging you, I'm proposing a question.

If altruistic leadership makes so much sense, if it would create goodwill and cause others to act positively, why is it so hard to do?  Why is it that we haven't just all jumped on the bandwagon and implemented these strategies?

I know it takes time to come up with an answer to some of these questions, so I don't necessarily expect a reply.  Perhaps that's the challenge of writing something that doesn't create a knee jerk reaction, that there is no spontaneous reply, no off the cuff comment that can be made.

It's like the difference between eating a donut and eating a steak.  The donut may taste good and cause a sudden jolt of energy in your body, but the steak tastes good in a different way, and will sustain you for at least a few hours.  This too, is the same analogy that can be used for the difference between transformational leadership and the others. Transformational leadership creates change.

I was questioned once about my leadership style in which an individual was simply not responding to my efforts, and as to whether my methods were truly transformational.  I can't say as to whether my methods are transformational: only the recipient can know that.  If my efforts at being a servant leader created the action I desired, then I guess we could say it was transformational, but even then, only if it created a sustained change in behavior.  Otherwise, my efforts were transactional: I was nice to the individual and they responded reciprocally- they were nice in return.  That doesn't indicate a sustained change.

Therefore, you may attempt to implement these changes in the way YOU lead, but it is the REACTION that says whether your efforts are transformational, transactional, or some other form of leadership.  Altruism should never be construed as enabling.  When my children want their milk at breakfast and demand it, and I respond by giving it to them, that isn't being altruistic. That is enabling poor behavior.  If my firefighters want a raise and they haven't earned it, giving it to them isn't looking out for their needs, giving it to them is reinforcing sub-par behavior.  The expectations are the same; the individual needs something, you are in a position to allocate that something, and you do so in an effort to develop a positive relationship.  The outcome, however, is completely contextual, and depends on the maturity, the competence, and the understanding of the recipient.

Back to when I was questioned about my leadership style: the person inquiring of me was making some pretty harsh statements about my ability to lead.  I was naturally not happy about it.  But whereas they KNEW what leadership was, or shall I say, they knew what defined it, they didn't UNDERSTAND it.  Just because you put good examples of leadership in front of someone, doesn't necessarily mean they are going to bite on it.  Some will and others won't.  You can work hard at modifying your approach, but if someone just doesn't automatically change, don't consider your attempts as failure.  YOU as the leader must make the first step of reaching out.  If the other person won't follow, or exploits your efforts, or fails to change, it certainly doesn't indicate you are a flawed leader.  It might very well indicate that you have a flawed follower.  And if your efforts result in success with you and don't for someone else, it also doesn't say that your leadership isn't transformational.  Followers will interact with the leader who inspires the change.  If they fail to respect their new leader, it doesn't say that they were incapable of change, it says that perhaps the new leader doesn't get what is needed to motivate that individual.

Donut or steak?  Immediate or sustained? You can tell people what the culture of your organization is, you can show them examples, you can print it on your business cards, but the moment the individual feels like they are in a different environment, they will change to react to that environment.  That is just a fact of life, that people reflect their surroundings as THEY perceive them, and if you don't get that, you don't get leadership.

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