The Leader’s Job
By Bill Haas, president, Haas Performance Consulting
As a leader, you have a new job. The hard part for many people is recognizing that in order to do the job of a leader, you have to stop doing your old job. This is definitely a transition and not necessarily an easy one. It can be difficult because you had experience at and were really good at your old job. Like anything new, until you have some experience, it can be uncomfortable.
The sooner you understand what a leader’s job is, the quicker you are comfortable in that role. The more experience you have as a leader, the better you will be at leading. So, what is the leader’s job? The leader’s job is not to do the work. The leader’s job is to create the environment where the work is done. That is what makes the transition difficult. You are accustomed to doing the work and in your new role, you must learn to allow others to do the work.
What is Expected of a Leader?
To do a great job of creating the environment where the work is done, you need to know what is expected of the leader. Here are important characteristics people look for in a leader.
You must appreciate those who you lead. People want to know that their efforts are appreciated. Never take anyone or their time for granted. Look for people’s value and make sure they know you appreciate them. Praise them for their contributions. Make it a habit to celebrate the value they provide to customers, co-workers, and the products and services you offer. Find ways to express your appreciation other than a paycheck. Paychecks are a function of employment, not a thank you for a job well done.
Mentioning paychecks reminds me of a quote from Clarence Francis, former CEO at General Foods Corporation. Clarence said, “You can buy a man’s time. You can buy his physical presence at a given place. You can even buy a measured number of his skilled muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy enthusiasm. You cannot buy loyalty. You cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, or souls. Those you MUST earn.” Leaders understand that without recognition, people feel devalued.
People expect honesty. This is the foundation of trust. Always do what you say you are going to do. Never make excuses for not fulfilling your commitments. As soon as you do that, you are no longer trustworthy. An often-overlooked aspect of honesty is being honest in difficult conversations. When team members fail to meet our expectations, that must be expressed, honestly. Integrity and communication build and maintain that you can be trusted. Your communication needs to be clear, consistent, open and honest.
Your knowledge, experience and skills determine your ability to lead. People want to know the leader is competent. Leaders need to inspire confidence in the team members and leaders do that through competence. Any time an individual is more competent than the leader, they will look to follow a new leader. If it is your job to tell someone what their job is, you better know what the job is. Incompetence in the leader leads to poor production, low morale and failure to achieve goals.
A real leader is secure. They allow others to grow through delegation. You can identify the insecurity of a leader when they do not let go of things. You will hear them say, “It will take less time to do it myself than the time it would take to show someone how to do it.” What I hear them saying is really this: “I will be doing this forever.” Exceptional leaders always work on developing leaders. To the point they are working themselves out of a job. Leaders are mentors who help people see their potential and achieve it. If there are things you want to do, that you have not gotten to, it is because you have not developed another employee to do the things you are doing. That prevents you from doing the things you want to do.
Common Styles of Leadership
What about your leadership style? Let us look at three of the most common styles of leadership. First there is laissez-faire, which is French for “let it be.” The laissez-faire leader leaves their colleagues alone. They will work it out, figure it out, or it will be good enough.
Second is the transactional leader. It is based on the premise that people are motivated by reward and punishment. If you do what you are told you receive a reward. Fail to do what you were told, and the leader has the right to punish you.
Neither of these styles fit well in creating the environment where the work is done. The transformational leader does fit well because they share the vision and inspire the team.
In the work environment, transformational leaders can view process, strategy, products and services in a way that very few can. They inspire their team members to think outside the box and identify outdated processes that need to be streamlined, and obstacles that slow down production. Transformational leaders take bold, risky actions that are not common. Transformational leaders boost the success of the organization through their people. Through the collaborative culture, there is a passion for purpose, positive attitudes and inclusive experiences.
Early on in my consulting career, I encountered a department manager who had the respect of everyone in the department. I wanted to know why he or others in his department never had a bad day, never had an attitude of indifference and made the best of every difficult situation and this is what I learned. He explained it this way: My job is to know what these people need and be responsible to make sure they get whatever that is. At work or otherwise. I can only do that by being with them and listening.
The reason you have the privilege to be a leader is to add value to others. A true leader is never selfish, self-centered, or focused on personal gain.
Enjoy the journey and I hope to see you at AAPEX in November where I’ll be leading a seminar, along with Sara Fraser, Haas Performance Consulting, on “Building a Culture that Employees Embrace,” Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., The Venetian Expo, Level 1, Training Room.
Bill Haas is president of Haas Performance Consulting and has 40 years of experience in the automotive service and repair industry. He has given many keynote speeches, as well as taught numerous classes at different conventions around the country. Bill began his career working part-time at a full service gasoline station in Appleton, Wisconsin. His career includes time as a technician, shop owner, technical trainer, and also a staff member of the automotive industry’s oldest and largest association representing automotive service and collision repair businesses. While at the association, Bill had the opportunity to work with all segments of the industry. His knowledge of the industry has been shared on many occasions as he has been invited to speak at numerous industry events as well as providing testimony at hearings of the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures on important legislation and regulation affecting the automotive industry. Bill received the Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) credential from the Automotive Management Institute in 1996. When Bill isn’t busy helping his clients, he enjoys watching stock car racing, reading non fiction books and spending time with his beautiful wife, Robbie, and their two dogs, Reba and Rowdy.