Leadership: People or shovels?

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

I would like to open a new mini-series of posts on leading people. All I learnt about leadrship in the past was quite obvious and logical to me. So I wondered why I should tell the others how it works. And yet it seems like it might not harm to look at a few concepts...

We live in the era of automation. More and more of old job positions are getting replaced by machines. You might have seen some articles in your local newspaper how terrible this is and what the poor people are going to do when they get replaced by machines. Maybe it is time to move on. To give up on dull jobs that can be done by machines and use the best tool we have. Use the thing that makes us unique on this planet. Our brain!

There is some evidence that we should be capable of achieving that. I know, it is simplified. So how about this - we are likely to use our brain at work much more than we did in the past. This change already started as you mostly buy your coke from a machine.

So just imagine that your employees decided to think about what they do more than they ever did. Now comes the important decision. I can either be a manager and command my workers, or I can be a leader and lead my team. Is there any difference in that? Am I just playing with words? I do not think so, and those who do not understand this will have hard times trying to manage smart employees who use their brain.

A manager of a production line screams at the workers and they do what they were ordered. Those who scream louder have bigger truth. Motivation is zero.

Employees in the 21. century do not want to be treated like that. They can work their hands off for you but you need to give them a very good reason. To motivate them. But wait, why would you waste your precious time with that? You can fire the few rebels and hire new good sheep, or?! Really? Can you? Are your employees replaceable like shovels?

Let's have a look on the price of an intelligent employee. How long did it take for you to find the candidate? How many interviews did you have before you found the best guy for your team? What did this guy learnt while working for you? Did they grow in their abilities and career? How efficient they are now compared to their first day at work? Did this guy ever improved anything in your company? How about others? Isn't this guy a sort of leader to them? Won't they lose morale?

There are plenty of questions like that. What I wanted to point out is that maybe the value of such an employee is bigger today. As you already made the investments. You cannot replace people like shovels. They became diamond decorated shovels, if you will. To give you a better feeling of this, I might even ask you - would you change your child for the one of neighbors'? Why not?

People mostly need a leader. These leaders even do not need a formal authority. Like Mohandas Gandhi who never had any official function. A true and genuine leader is a guy who knows what he does, who understands his job, does care about the consequences and about others. A leader has a high morale value. Once people see you as a leader, they will like to follow you.

Let's consider a negative example as a contrast. Do you know Big Brother from 1984? He was everywhere, talking to people, telling them what to do, what not to do. And yet, nobody liked him unless tortured.

Where do you want to be? Do you want to be a manager or a leader?
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