Break Them At Your Own Risk
In a desperate
championship game, a football coach calls a play--a special play,
that he knows will work. The ball is snapped; the quarterback drops
back to pass and throws to a running back who catches the ball while
he is behind the line of scrimmage. The running back stops, sets,
and throws a completed pass thirty yards downfield to a wide
receiver, putting the team in scoring position. Wait! The officials
are huddled in the middle of the field and then a yellow penalty
flag ascends into the air, Illegal forward pass. The previous
play is voided and the team is penalized. Surely the coach must have
known that this type of play was against the rules. Or did he?
If this very
same play had been run the previous season it would have been
perfectly legal and within the rules, but an off-season rule change
made this play illegal. Yet, the coach was unaware of it. He
didn’t know the rules. It proved to be a costly mistake since his
team lost when the opposing team scored a last second field goal.
When it comes
to leading people, teams, and organizations there aren’t any
referees present to make sure we follow the rules. Over and over
again, leaders call the wrong plays without even knowing they’re
breaking the rules. All leaders are different and all leaders
lead differently. Fortunately for us there aren’t very many
rules for leading. Most attempts by companies and organizations to
communicate their expectations to the leaders are attempts to
amplify the rules. Every so often these attempts go awry, resulting
in leadership failure and frustration. What has happened is that the
rules (unknowingly) have been broken.
So, just what
are these rules and why are they so important?
Leaders Cannot Motivate People:
repeatedly fool themselves into thinking they can motivate people by
offering them some form of tangible reward or by instilling fear in
them. In both cases they are wrong.
Motivate People. What leaders can do, however, is be
motivational. Consider this: All of us are self-motivated. We
all do what we do because we, for a multitude of reasons, are
motivated to do it. You see, the key for leaders when it comes
to motivation is not believing that they can motivate people, it’s
that they understand what motivates people, what drives them, and
create the opportunities for them to satisfy those motivations.
Rule #2: Check
Your Ego at the Door:
Leaders whose focus is egocentric take significant risk. Over and
over again, leaders who behave as though their followers exist
solely to serve them inevitably tumble from their exalted status.
They fail to realize that in every circumstance, any influence that
leaders enjoy is a direct result of the willingness of their
followers to allow themselves to be influenced by leaders. If
followers aren’t willing to be led, the leaders are powerless.
Followers can easily and readily detect when a leader’s focus is on
himself and not them. Effective leaders focus on the needs, wants,
desires, and expectations of their followers and every action they
take is intended to help followers satisfy those needs, wants and
Rule #3: Do it
Leaders have a moral responsibility to their followers to ensure
that what they require of their followers is within ethical
boundaries. Succinctly, they must create and maintain the ethical
climate within which they operate. Simply by virtue of their
authority and position in an organization, leaders can wield
significant amounts of power. Misusing this power can produce
horrendous and often deadly results. They are expected to define
what is right and what is wrong, and when they choose to ignore what
is right and expect what is wrong they place their followers in
To do it
right, leaders must:
1. Define a clear, understandable set of guidelines for their
followers. Give examples of what is right and what is wrong.
2. Define and determine ahead of time what the rewards are for
ethical behavior. Conversely, determine ahead of time the
consequences for unethical behavior.
3. Monitor the level of stress and pressure followers are
performing under. Determine what the optimal level of stress is and
seek to prevent it from increasing.
You can choose
to follow them, bend or break them, or ignore them. Whatever choice
you make, the rules are the rules, and they are as real as Newton’s
law of gravity. Like Newton’s law, the rules have a predictable
effect on how successful or unsuccessful any leader will be. As long
as people are in positions of responsibility, attempting to
influence other people to achieve a goal, or to get the job done,
the rules will be there.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and