“Lead”ing The Discussion

Leaders are “grown-ups.” Sometimes when procedures in a company get a little loose and employees start to bend the rules, the leader has to be the adult in the room who says, “OK, that’s enough.” Most of us have been in pre- or post-meeting conversations when the gossip begins to swirl and hints and allegations are directed towards a certain person. It is critical that a leader be the one who says, “All right, enough of that. Let’s move on.” It is a sign of character to be above idle chatter and rumors. As “the mature one,” the leader sets “circuit breakers” in the process so that if contingencies occur, the break in the line may cause a momentary setback, but not an overall power failure. Replacing the breaker is much more manageable than rewiring the entire system. The foresight of the leader acknowledges and prepares for this.

Leaders are not rushed. Leaders understand the importance of deadlines but do not become frenzied. They rise above the panic, keeping things on an even keel. When a leader tends to handle pressure without outbursts, accusations, blame, or anger, employees know they are contributing to projects or processes that will be professional and complete. In old cowboy novels, one of the townsfolk usually sidles up to the cool, soft-spoken sheriff and says something like, “Mister, you sure got a lot of sand in you.” And the sheriff just smiles, nods, and gets back on his horse. Leaders should be admired.

Leaders realize they can’t always be liked. Sometimes leaders have to say or do things that are very unpopular. A leader may have to promote an agenda not supported by the staff, or terminate an employee for reasons that may seem unclear. A leader realizes that employees may understand the decision at a later date. And while some staff members may never understand the reasons behind a decision, it isn’t about being popular—it is about serving the job he or she was hired to do. Leaders know it may take a long time for a decision to be acknowledged as being right.

A leader is proactive and when necessary reactive, but with deliberate, reasonable, considered responses. They don’t say, “I don’t know” without adding “I will find out.” They don’t ever say, “I was not informed.” Their job is to be informed. They set the example.

In short, leaders fully accept the responsibility of the job. The focus is not on them, but the job. There may be others who are fully capable of doing the same job—maybe just a different way; maybe even a better way, but leaders understand that for the present this is their job. They do the best they can by employing the best people they can find and producing the best “product” they can. To do this, leaders know the importance of respecting the lives, ideas, and diversity of their staff.

It’s really very simple, isn’t it? Respect for yourself, respect for your staff, respect for those you serve; this is a simple formula for a successful leader.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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