Here’s President Eisenhower on leadership:
“. . . I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’ – not ‘leadership’.”
That causes me to remember times when I’ve heard CEOs complain that people always seemed to want more from them. These CEOs would respond with some version of, “I pay them to do their jobs.” This was always said with the clear implication that money should be enough to get people’s best efforts.
There’s something of an “assault,” I think, embedded in that view, as it suggests that clubbing people over the head with a paycheck is leadership, the very thing required to get best effort. I don’t think that’s right, though, and I don’t think Eisenhower would have thought so, either.
Best efforts – people’s A-Game, as I illustrate in my book, ENGAGEMENT: How Great Leaders Ignite A-Game Performance, comes about through the influence of the stuff that grabs we humans in the gut. The studies show conclusively and repeatedly that acts of caring, the fundamental of all relationships, is at the core. It’s demonstrated by showing interest, like asking questions, listening, calling on people to be their best, but only because they’re too important to be anything less than their best.
There’s more, of course, and we lay that out in our keynotes and workshops. For now, though, heed the wisdom of the man who was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in WW II, deftly navigating the waters of embedded interests and huge egos to draw out the best from everyone and achieve the goal. Indeed, he went on to say,
“I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion – and conciliation – and education – and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know – or believe in – or will practice.”
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