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Voice of Business: On leadership, rowboats and getting the most out of a team
Sep 09, 2013 | 2402 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim Smith
Jim Smith
By Jim Smith

Davis Chamber CEO

“The world can be divided into three categories,” said Bill Graham of Graham Corporate Communications, a well-known lecturer on communications within business entities. “There are Doers, Managers, and Leaders.”

The Doers do the work. They produce the product, work on the assembly line, perform the service, and can be found in the trenches. They are the people who row the boat.

The Managers role is to help the doers perform their function more efficiently. Using the row boat analogy, the manager helps them row in unison, dip their oars simultaneously, maximize their speed and minimize the drag of the boat through the water.

The Leaders role is to decide where the boat is heading. The leader identifies the dream, and then convinces everyone that they want to go there. This person is inspirational, emotional, creative, and it is the leader that motivates the team.

Think about it: Without that goal, that target, that worthy destination in mind, the manager might be helping the doers run efficiently in a circle! I’ve heard it said that “full speed ahead only counts if you are going in the right direction.” That is the role of the leader.

But how do you do that in a business, or in your family, or in your community? Graham encouraged leaders to provide “catalysts and nourishment rather than inhibitors and toxins.” It is easy for us to identify the positive things a leader should be doing, such as motivating, encouraging, and advising. But what are the “inhibitors and toxins” he references?

He listed a few, which I will share without much expansion. He tells leaders to stop doing the following: telling people how smart you are, since that can be demeaning to others and reduces their desire to follow; keeping secrets in the company, withholding information from the team, because that sends the message that they are not trusted; trying to appear infallible, when a simple “I’m sorry” expands your credibility without weakening your influence.

He reinforces the age-old counsel to leaders to “praise loud, but correct/fix/criticize softly.” Above all, the worst thing a business leader can do in his company is to say “the rules are for everyone but me.”

The hypocrisy of that attitude does not go unnoticed by your teammates. I remember once in my career when I was the President of a small bank. Following every staff meeting I would go out into the parking lot and pick up trash. How long do you think it was before everyone was picking up every little piece of litter as they came to work?  The team will model their leader’s attitude. Make sure you are sending the right message.

Graham summarized his presentation with this observation. “Computers use logic, but people are ruled by emotion. That is what the leader brings to the team.”

He means the emotions that separate us from machines or animals. As the leader sets the goal and provides vision to the team, he or she is able to help them visualize a positive outcome as they work together toward the common goal they have all embraced.

The emotions a good leader brings to the team are not much different from those listed by Abraham Maslow in his theory on the hierarchy of needs – fulfillment, the satisfaction of belonging to something larger than self, freedom of expression, and a sense that their work contributed to something larger than themselves.

This motivates us to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone and to achieve more than we thought possible. That is leadership!

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