Parents have been taught by modern child rearing experts to be friends with their children. Being the BFF is now a virtue for parenting. But when a child sees the parent as a friend, the parent has forfeited his natural authority. The equality of parents and children has created a barrier for parents to instill discipline and moral values. The use of authority as the parental leader of the family has practically vanished.
Leaders cannot be friends or “lead from behind.” It does not produce leadership and besides is an oxymoron. A leader has to be in front physically or mentally to be considered as leading. People who have chosen to be in a position of power have to say and do things not everyone in the group agrees with or likes. The objective of the leader is to meet the goals of his position not to be voted the nicest boss. Instead the leader’s job is to get everyone to work together to accomplish the mission not to win a popularity contest.
A leader has to show his underlings a track record of improvement and success. Promoting, demoting, rewarding, encouraging and firing individuals for the betterment of the enterprise are some of the functions of a leader. The personality of the boss determines the style of leadership, although all leaders should have more power than their subordinates regardless of the approach. Some people in authority might use psychological reinforcement, intellectual persuasion, fear, role modeling or a mixture of all of these to reach their vision.
Regardless of the approach leaders use to gain respect, at times they should be feared. They may directly confront or subtly point out a poor decision to convey a criticism. Sometimes a stern reprimand, a put down or a sarcastic comment could be given when someone is not doing his fair share by being careless, obstinate or disregarding his specific responsibilities. It is the force of their personality and their actions that motivate their people to put forth their best effort.
The concept that we always have to be friendly, polite and diplomatic in dealing with others is absurd. In certain periods particular approaches are looked upon with more favor than others. All leadership styles at one time or another have been successful in reaching fellow worker’s needs. Being overly cautious and attempting not to hurt a person’s feelings may buy loyalty but seldom add productivity.
Making a ridiculous statement such as a leader is too direct, offensive or critical to be an effective leader should be an insult to any critically thinking person. In the long run an individual should be judged on the results of his actions, not just his diplomacy. Using a soft manner often gives a confusing message. Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words.
Winston Churchill is considered by most experts to be a great WWII leader. He did not mince words, and displayed great courage in front of his enemies. Regardless of his direct reality assessment, his statements resonated with the British citizenry. Additionally he was noted to praise the perseverance of the Britons in their darkest hour. He was a man of action.
On the other hand, British Chancellor, Nevil Chamberlain, was a refined, consummate negotiator who was very courteous and solicitous to Adolf Hitler. Hitler signed treaties that he had no intention of following. Chamberlain’s apparent weakness as the leader of England was fully exploited by Germany. He was a man of pleasantries and words that turned out to be worthless and dangerous to the survival of the nation.
In times of crisis the stick (action) is more effective and appropriate than the carrot, playing nicey, nicey. If you stare eye to eye with intensity at someone who is attempting to intimidate you, it conveys, “stop or I will hurt you.” The instigator backs off his threats, which is a more successful method in the situation than sweet talk that ends in submission.
Diplomacy has a place but so does confrontation. After displaying strength, a softer manner can be used to establish a more meaningful relationship. Once leaders demonstrate they can handle adversity with strength of character, their status as a leader increases in the eyes of others. Being a straight, tough talker and acting reasonably when someone else is doing the same can get amazingly beneficial results.
Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. Dr. Maglio has a new book, available on Amazon and other sites, entitled, IN CHARGE PARENTING. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.