Most of us have experienced a variety of leaders and managers in our lives. If we’ve held several jobs, then we’ve run the gamut of supervisors from those who draw out the best in us to those who micromanage, deride, and suck all the life out of those reporting to them. Outside of work scenarios, we have experienced varieties of leaders in government, church life and a host of volunteer organizations to which we belong. Some of us have been in those leadership roles.
While reading the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles a couple of weeks ago, I took note of the story of evil king Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21:20 which states that “he departed with no one’s regrets.” Some of the genealogies of such kings are matter-of-fact and absent any color commentary, but not this one. This king was so awful that for all time it is recorded that when he died “he departed with no one’s regrets.” Who wants to be a leader remembered that way? Who wants to be a leader where other people are glad to see you leave? Not me.
While the focus of leadership should not be getting others to like you, and it is possible that there will always be haters you will not win over for some reason, most people have a willingness to appreciate and follow good leadership. We appreciate leadership that is visionary, honest, transparent, thoughtful, encouraging, insightful, enabling, and effective. We do not appreciate leadership that is self-serving, derogatory, controlling, haphazard, unclear, and ineffective. You can add qualities to each of these lists.
If you are a manager and you have no concern for what others think about you, then you are in the wrong business and you should do something else. If you are a manager and you do care but you aren’t sure what others think of you, then seek out someone unafraid to tell you the truth and have a conversation. You might ask the simple question, “If I left this role today, would most people be happy or sad to see me go?” The answer may be very revealing. I have lost managers in the past where colleagues were distraught at the change and mourned the loss, wondering how we would function without such a great person at the helm. And I have lost other leadership where the result is an immediate sigh of relief and rejuvenation of hope within the ranks that we have endured the storm and maybe we can move forward now that the giant blockage has been removed from our path.
Of course, being a leader and a manager are two very different things and I do not use the terms synonymously. Leaders are not necessarily in supervisory positions and managers are not necessary real leaders. So whichever of the two fits you for purposes of this discussion, interpret my words accordingly.
I hope that in those leadership roles in my past, present and future, I have been and will continue to be the kind of person who others are sad to see go when the time comes. I don’t ever want to be that leader who is clueless to the strife he is causing, ever charging forward over the corpses of the good people he is trampling along the way.
Whether you are officially in a management role, or voluntarily in some capacity of leadership, lead in such a way that others are sad to see you go. That isn’t the goal of good leadership, but it is a reasonable consequence.