With political upheaval across the globe, a lot of people have been caught up in the debate over what makes a good leader. Most people in democratic societies believe that any competent and hardworking person could potentially become a good leader. While this is at least partially true, it may not be entirely accurate. Assuming that leaders are only made—not born—is like saying that any farm animal can be a dairy cow, regardless of its actual identity. The quality of the creature’s milk, when extracted, may suffer if all animals are assumed to be a natural fit for the dairy cow’s position and try to compete for it. While a goat may do a better job than a horse, their milk would still not be the same as a cow’s.
Leaders as Servants
The best leaders are servants of the people they rule. The worst leaders are flattering and manipulative dictators of the people they rule. A servant leader is one who puts the needs of others above the needs of their own preferences. People trust servant leaders because they do not micromanage or demand excess attention. The “controlling god” leadership model puts the employees far below their managers, and the employees usually do not like it. Members of the workforce compete to be the next manager in order to leave a position of subservience, and because they are generally more focused on merely escaping a negative situation rather than producing superior work, the next manager is often someone who has been promoted beyond their level of competence. Training yourself to be a servant leader requires an ability and willingness to ask questions. It requires laying aside pretenses of narcissism and selfishness. If labor does not trust their managers, they will go on strike more frequently. Japanese companies have perfected the employer-employee relationship, but American companies still struggle with a similar power structure. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, emphasized how the customer is the boss. He believed that managers should treat their staff like customers because this is how staff will treat customers.
Understanding Organizational Psychology Aids Growth
Although they may not wish to admit it, not every person is suited to become the next Gandhi, Jobs, Walton, Gates, or Lincoln. This is a part of the ongoing debate between whether leaders are born or made. Studies indicate that the truth lies somewhere in between. Part of a person’s leadership ability is rooted in natural brain psychology. Figuring out your employee’s natural brain traits can be accomplished by administering one of several quality professional assessments such as that offered by Dr. Dario Nardi of UCLA. Once the person’s brain code is identified, they can be placed in the part of the organization where they will excel.
Placing a natural accountant in the chief executive spot is like asking a mole to build nests in a fir tree. The mole is puzzled because it is a pro at digging excellent tunnels. The mole does not even know where the tree is, let alone what a nest is. Knowing how to hire natural leaders requires balancing seniority promotions with practical psychological assessments. A quality leadership development program emphasizes the importance of both character development and natural ability.
Resisting Manipulative and Incompetent Management
Incompetent and arrogant leadership is one of the biggest barriers to growth organizations run into. This is particularly true when business people from different cultures interact. Kodak fell because its own management ignored the in-house company invention of the digital camera. Identifying the change makers is equally important as removing the change breakers. As long as incompetence is allowed to prevail, the company organization will continue to stagnate and not implement helpful ideas that could aid growth. Removing people who are unwilling to help others and listen is the job of a good Human Resources department.
Pushing certain types of people to overachieve is not always helpful in an organization. Identifying what roles people are supposed to perform is more helpful. People in power tend to become more incompetent as they are promoted higher because the point at which they cease to be promoted is the point at which their competence plateaus. Dealing with this reality requires a familiarity with both natural and environmental factors of good leadership.
By: Jennifer Livingston