A Lesson in Leadership

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

Simon Sinek

Previous to my current career, I was in leadership. I say I was in leadership, but the official title ranged anywhere from Supervisor to Manager. I am not a big fan of these titles, as they do not scream leadership to me. Leading people is more about heartbeats than they are about head counts. Supervisors supervise, managers manage, and leaders lead.

I remember talking with a peer of mine years ago. We talked about the importance of words and how that even our titles matter. He decided to change his title on his email from Supervisor to Leader. It took about an hour before “management” told him he needed to change it back to the correct title.

I thought a great deal about my time in these positions and how I tried to be a good leader who really cared about each individual rather than numbers. I thought I did a decent job and coincidentally my teams seemed to always be high performers, simply because I treated them like people. However, as I reflected on my time, I think I missed the mark on occasion.

I no longer am in a “leadership” position. I mention last week in a post that I was angry at my boss. I felt like I was being treated unfairly and really was ready to hang it all up. I felt like a number who was meant to produce and nothing more. I vented my frustrations to anyone who would hear me out. Then today happened.

One week from my last discussion with my boss, and in my mind, I was prepared to go into our one on one and if it was the same as last week I was going to say I can’t work for you anymore. I have had it! I was boiled over and ready for a fight. When the meeting began my boss simply said “I really think you are doing a great job and I am sorry I have been stressed out and pushing that frustration on our team – including you.”

That was it. All of my frustrations for the week gone. A simple “I’m sorry, and you are doing a great job” was all it took. The weight that burdened me was gone.

That is where I think I made some mistakes when I was in that role. As I look back, I wonder how often I got stressed and pushed that on my teammates; How often did I let the work get me down and in return was not at my best for them; Times when I did not say I am sorry, or offer an encouraging word to a struggling employee.

In this experience, I have learned a great lesson in leadership: Sometimes an “I’m sorry” or an encouraging “you’re doing a great job and I appreciate you” is better than any other thing you could do for your teammates.

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