I've been re-watching The Office with my wife over the past several months, starting from the beginning and working through all of the episodes. One thing that struck me this time around, much more so than last time, is how Michael's actions adversely affect the team around him. Maybe I'm more sensitive to this type of thing now that I'm a manager, but it's clear from watching any episode how horrible of an environment Michael is creating. As I sit through each episode, and experience Michael's antics first hand through the eyes of another employee, I can't help but wonder if I'm guilty of some of the same types of behaviors (hopefully, on a much less extreme level).
A lot has been written about the qualities that any great leader should have. It's equally important to occasionally look at the flip side of the coin - the qualities that all poor leaders seem to share and the consequences that they suffer as a result. As a leader, you will make mistakes - this much is inevitable. But how you handle such issues and the way that you react in such a high-stakes environment will go a long way towards dictating how others see you and, ultimately, the type of work they're willing to do for you.
Expectations and Realistic Expectations Are Two Different Things
As a leader, a certain part of your job involves dealing directly with clients as a type of intermediary between your team and the people you're actually doing work for. It's one thing to SAY "Oh, sure - we'll definitely be able to get that big project that we haven't technically started yet done by end of business Tuesday, no problem." It's another thing to actually do it. Yet time and again, far too many leaders fall into the trap of promising anything and everything under the sun to clients in order to appease them and keep them happy, all at the ultimate expense of the people doing the lion's share of the hard work in the first place.
Part of success in this avenue involves keeping communications open and honest with your team at all times. They know what it is possible to do while still meeting a certain quality expectation. Your job as a leader is to take that and present it to the client in a realistic way in order to both keep them happy AND manage their own expectations at the exact same time. If you tell your six person team that you just promised the client something that is essentially impossible to keep them satisfied, you're looking at six people who are probably going to start polishing their resume when they get home tonight.
Do What I Say and Not What I Do
If you want to be seen as the type of leader you've always dreamed that you could be, you need to get better at more than just delegating responsibility. You need to ACT like a leader and present yourself in that way. People will do what you tell them to by virtue of the position you hold to a certain extent, but this will only carry you so far. You need to treat people with the utmost respect and be willing to accept responsibility as the "face" of the team if something goes wrong. You don't want people to do what you tell them to just because you've told them to do it - you want them to legitimately follow you of their own free will, like an army following a general into battle.
You're Not Just the Leader of the Team - You're a Part of the Team
When people ascend to the position of leader, a lot of times they think that by virtue of their new job title one of the "perks" of such a position is essentially "more money for less work." Grabbing hold of this mentality and refusing to let go is yet another really efficient way to completely shatter team morale, causing a lot of grief and stress in the process. If anything, being a leader means that you need to work harder than ever. You're still a valuable member of the team and still need to lend a helping hand wherever possible, but you also have the added responsibility of interacting directly with clients on the team's behalf at the exact same time. It's about more than just delegating responsibility - it's about actively contributing. Never ask a subordinate to do something that you wouldn't be more than willing to do yourself or you will absolutely regret it sooner rather than later.