Q. How can I be a better leader?
A. Managers function as leaders, managers, or administrators depending on the size and
complexity of the organization managed. However, all three use leadership skills. Managers
lead their subordinate leaders and administrators lead their subordinate managers.
Leaders must be professionally competent in the job they hold to gain the respect and
confidence of subordinates reporting to them. No one can work productively for an
incompetent boss. Chaos and disorder results. Leaders must have the loyalty of subordinates
who report to them. That loyalty is earned with actions, not words. Loyalty is earned by taking
care of the subordinate’s welfare.
The best example of earned loyalty is General Washington during the American Revolution.
Washington’s army was withdrawing across a bridge on a cold, wet winter night. His engineers
had mined the bridge to blow up when the last soldiers were safely across. As the last soldier
came ashore in the dark, he bumped into the leg of a man on a horse. He looked up and
recognized Washington. He was there to be sure all his soldiers got safely across. Washington
could have been back in his command post in a dry, warm farmhouse or at least in his dry,
warm tent. Instead, he was out in the cold, wet weather ensuring his soldiers were safe.
Washington had fierce, personal loyalty from his army of thousands of soldiers. He earned it.
Leaders share the dangers and hardships of their subordinates.
Leaders set goals for their organization and design action plans to accomplish those goals that
spell out the details of who, what, when, where, why, and how required. They make
assignments to subordinates that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
They measure results and recognize good performance. They monitor progress and intervene if
necessary to keep assignments on schedule. After the goal is accomplished, they perform an
after-action review to determine what went well and what did not. They and their subordinates
learn from failures and resolve to not repeat those. Good leaders allow the subordinate to
decide how to accomplish the task. If the task turns out well, that is a great sense of satisfaction
for the subordinate and creates initiative for the next assignment. Good leaders treat their
subordinates fairly and have consistent expectations from them. Consistent expectations are
necessary for a smooth functioning operation.