Having the opportunity to speak about leadership is a great experience. It’s great because there are always people in the room with different approaches and ideas on how to lead others. These people always teach me something I didn’t know or remind me just how multifaceted leadership is.
Recently I was a presenter at a three day leadership conference and was approached at a break by a retired criminal investigator for the New York state police. He complimented me on the material but then said, “I’m not much of a “holding hands in the shower” guy.” I was instantly curious and he went on to explain that having a positive relationship with those you lead is important but a leader must know when it’s time to look someone in the eye and command them to act.
I have to admit the other presenters and I were constantly stressing the importance of relationship building and the necessity of a leader to connect with others on a deeper personal level. This, to a person who sometimes led police officers while they busted down doors to get to armed criminals, probably did seem pretty soft and un-manlike.
This conversation reminded me that although a leader should develop excellent personal relationships with his followers, those relationships shouldn’t interfere with the responsibility of a leader at the appropriate point to command and direct action.
And it is because of the relationships the leader has cultivated that we he does ask for action, he can turn around and find people following him. He finds they are following because they want to not because they have to.
Leadership is not always “holding hands in the shower.” When it’s time to bust down the door with guns drawn there is no time to stop to work on relationships. That should have already been accomplished. If that job was done properly there will be a whole bunch of guys behind you with their guns drawn. If not you better turn around and run because you are in big trouble.