King of the Mountain


Umpteen times I’ve tried to finish this blog over a span of almost two years.  It seemed that every time I’d return to this draft that there would be an even bigger national tragedy that would force my attention away from discussing healthcare leadership.  What we see now and what we will suffer for years to come, humbles and grieves me.  However, to call me a snowflake would show a lack of understanding of the power of a snowflake.  I am from Michigan and I’ve seen snowflakes take out a Ford F150.  Regardless, let’s move this draft to a posting.

How many times have you had to report to someone who had been promoted to a position of management or directorship because of qualities that had nothing to do with the job of leadership?  For many of us, unfortunately, this has occurred way too many times.  If this incompetent manager keeps to himself and implodes on his own, we can breathe a sigh of relief having missed a bullet.  Unfortunately, this person will usually feel compelled to wield this newly assigned position of power and may even thrive convincing those whom he reports of his “management skills” while he leaves broken people and their careers in his wake.

One of the hallmarks of the current political scene is a lack of diplomacy and decency.  Sadly, we have seen a tacit acceptance of this “non-politically correctness” spread to the work place, in social media, and even in the discussion about leadership.  We know this toxic language and these people.  If they lived in our neighborhood, making every excursion outside of our home a nightmare or terrorized our playground at recess, we quickly learned.  If they weren’t physically bigger, they had a gang, or a streak of meanness that was intimidating.  Most of the nice kids were totally unprepared for this.  It was always easier to take the long way home, drop a class, or go out for another sport.

My condolences if you encounter this person as an adult.  Worse if he becomes your supervisor at work.  Intimidation, harassment, discrimination, or lack of respect in the proverbial tool box of this manager is nothing less than an excuse to being a bully.  Why is it that these people placed at the top of the leadership pyramid feel that those under them are inferior, do not deserve their respect, and are nothing less than cogs in the company’s machine that can be discarded and replaced?  

Thankfully, this bullying approach doesn’t always go unnoticed or succeed.  A Gallup poll of more one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.  Furthermore, the findings indicate people leave managers not companies.  Therefore, turnover is mostly a manager issue.  Fingers crossed here:  it appears that companies are finding out that bad bosses are bad for business.

But here we are again, like legislating supply side economics, we are giving this failed approach another go.  For now.

For those of us who are drawn to leadership, one thing to keep in mind is that leadership, like so many skills, is just that.  It can be acquired over years of specific training followed by more years of trial and error.  And all through this process, someone who wants to be a leader has to keep an open mind and learn with every failure and every wrong turn. Success, I’ve found, should only be savored for a short while because the next challenge is just around the bend.  Keeping an open mind is about not getting too cocky.  Or feeling you can bend your staff to your will by bullying.

It is my considered opinion of decades of being led as well as leading, is that people usually know early in their careers if they should lead.  There are times it might feel like striving for a job as a manager or director is the only next upward step in career.  That choice might turn out disastrous not only for you, but also for the inevitable collateral damage of others.  On a personal level, working towards a management job may simply be a case of a lack of imagination.  Corporate-think?

Instead of pursuing the path of leadership when every cell in your body is tugging you in a different direction, take a few breaths and consider what you enjoy, or don’t enjoy, about your job.  Do you really want to face the daily demands of leadership while, at the same time, discover ways to inspire and give direction to your team while putting your own ego aside?  Seeing to staff details, such as reconciling time cards is important, but I’d argue it is not as important reviewing and confirming the context of the Why of the work and setting goals that make sense.

These are what I think are the imperatives for successful leadership:

  1. Hire the right people
  2. Guide and give direction to your people on a regular schedule
  3. Set the context of all activity and continually review and confirm the context
  4. Provide your people the resources they need to succeed and be intuitive to know when they need the resources before they do
  5. Remember that your people’s successes is your success.

Pharrel Williams in a 2016 interview stated:  To me, the old definition of leadership is “Look at me, I’m a leader.”  But the new definition should be “No, actually, look at you—I’m listening.”