Watch a cattle dog and a herd of cows. The dog knows where he wants the cattle to go but can have a devil of a time getting them to cooperate. It’s actually a great lesson in leadership and how that term is so often misunderstood.
The lead animal “leads by example.” Think about that familiar phrase and all that it means. If there’s a new pasture to explore, a lead cow will go there first.
As the dog barks at the heels of the cattle to drive them on, some dart here, others sneak out there, a few hesitate to move and still others run past the target gate altogether. Inevitably, some even turn on the dog and charge in defiance. The dog eventually gets them where he wants, but it’s exhausting work. And it won’t be any easier next time. Driving from behind can produce results, but it’s not “leadership.”
What is the root of the word leadership, anyway? It’s “lead.” Leading happens from the front, not from the back! To understand the difference, watch the same herd of cattle in their natural state. When the bravest cow decides to cross a gully and move to another area of the pasture, that trail blazer will take the initiative and walk off on her own. If you watch, you’ll see the entire herd follow her! Ask any rancher with a hole in his fence about this one. We don’t know exactly how cows on several hundred acres can find that one spot where the fence has leaned over, but all it takes is one brave Bessy to find it and jump over…and the entire herd is gone in a matter of moments! (You can ask me, too, about several 2:00 am roundups on our county road in my bathrobe and boots!)
Back to our subject: Following is voluntary, not forced. It happens as a natural byproduct of leadership — the courage, confidence and example of someone others trust, and want to follow or emulate .
When I walk into a business, I can sense immediately the quality of leadership in that organization. So can your customers or clients.
Are you truly “leading” your staff or are you just barking at their heels? Do you find you need to constantly oversee their work to keep them on task? Is there resistance to your direction? Challenge or disrespect? Must you keep the pressure on for productivity? Are there routinely missed deadlines? Are you having too many disciplinary conversations? If any of these typical management issues sound familiar, you may be barking too much and leading too little.
The lead animal “leads by example.” Think about that familiar phrase and all that it means. If there’s a new pasture to explore, a lead cow will go there first. If it’s a hole in the fence and something unknown on the other side, the leader will bravely go where no cow has gone before…
When I walk into a business, I can sense immediately the quality of leadership in that organization. So can your customers or clients. This is because employees naturally follow the mood and example set by management– intentionally or unintentionally. It’s simply human/animal nature. So lead intentionally!
Be yourself the shining example of kindness in word and deed around the office.
If you want your staff to be kinder to one another, don’t criticize them for being snitty; be yourself the shining example of kindness in word and deed around the office. If you need employees to show up to work on time, try NEVER being late yourself and even make a habit of being early and recognize others that do the same. If you want to reduce profanity, don’t bark, “Clean up your mouth, dammit!” Instead make sure yours is the cleanest in the office. If staff sometimes gossip about your clients behind their backs, don’t scold; instead make a point to detour those conversations by finding something good to say about that person, proactively.
In other words, try more leading from the front and less barking from behind. It’s not only more effective and rewarding, but the view is way better, too.