Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Leader?

I’m sitting at my son’s swim meet, in the lobby of the pool, and there is this boy slamming toys down on the floor, just being a total menace. Where are this kid’s parents? Why are they not paying attention to him? Why are they allowing him to behave this way? I’ll tell you why – they are bad parents. It’s plain and simple, no doubt about it. That’s not to say good parents’ kids don’t behave badly at times, or to say my kids are perfect angels all the time. If you notice, it’s not the kid’s behavior I am focusing on, it’s why the parents are not acting accordingly. Kids are sure to behave badly. Parents, do something about it!

The other night, I was watching Inside the NFL, and as the show closed, Phil Simms was commenting on how Wade Phillips has lost control of his team and why the Cowboys were losing. I’m paraphrasing, but Phil said Wade was treating players like equals and was acting more like a bud than a boss. He said that you can’t do that with football players; you have to come down on them, be tough on them, and not take any crap from them. He is absolutely right. The coach is not there to be the players’ friend; he’s there to lead them to victory. (I wrote this post almost a week before posting, but obviously Jerry Jones agreed and fired his head coach the beginning of this week).

It’s true in any leadership role. Unfortunately, if you are a leader, you cannot allow those you are leading to be your friend. I know this sounds tough and maybe insensitive, but the reality is that it’s not your job to be your employees’ friend. It is definitely not your job to be you kids’ friend. Your job is to give them the proper guidance, instruction, love and respect, but also to reprimand and provide consequences when they behave inappropriately or do not meet your standards. The results are obvious to everyone from the way a parent handles their misbehaving child or the way a coach mishandles a player.

Being a leader comes with great responsibility; it is definitely not easy at times, because you always have to be “on”. When things are not going as planned, you cannot just ignore it and let things slide; you have to be all over it. You have to come down on folks when they are not performing at the level of expectation of yourself and the group. Don’t think for one second that I believe leadership is someone barking out orders all the time and just being the heavy. That view is myopic and doomed for failure.

True leadership, like everything else in life, is dependent on balance. You have to be thoughtful, but strategic; firm, but not too firm. Great leaders perform with a proper mix of respect and decisive direction. But, the reality is that leaders have to be careful not to let folks feel too comfortable about where they stand with the leadership. That is when things can begin to unravel. If a leader is not taken seriously, he or she has lost their ability to lead. If a coach is not viewed as having control of a team, the players will not respect or listen to his direction. If a parent does not instill into a child that they mean business, they will be walked all over, just like the parents I am watching being controlled by their five year old at my son’s swim meet.

Do you have what it takes to be a leader? Do you have an opinion on what characteristics make up a true leader? If so, check out #leadershipchat with @LisaPetrilli and @swoodruff Tuesday nights at 8pm on Twitter.

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