I’ve been doing this “leadership” think for a while now. I’ve done the NCO thing in the military, I’ve moved up the supervision chain in LE, etc.
While I hesitate to speak from a position of “expertise” on leadership ( I always feel like I’m still learning), there is an aspect of it I seem to see time and again that I would like to discuss and that is the confusion over “where your loyalty lies”.
In a nutshell the question is this. Are you a representative of management there to “keep an eye on things”, implementing your superiors policies and looking for “violators”? Or are you a “representative of your men” who looks out for their welfare and protects them from the wrath of your bosses? This issue is sharpest for that mid level leader like a Sergeant or Lieutenant who has direct contact with “the grunts”.
In my opinion this is the first hurdle every new leader seems to face. If not understood it can become an entrenched mindset throughout their career, and only becomes magnified the higher up the leadership ladder they climb.
Of course…as with any complex issue, the reality is never as black and white as I paraphrased above. A good leader has to realize that he has a foot in two worlds. It’s your job to make the ship go in the direction your superiors want it to go…you are not “one of the guys” anymore. However, you are never going to be the “leader of men” I would hope you want to be if you look at the people actually doing the work as drones vs “your people”.
I look at it like this:
With superiors above you and subordinates below you you can look at yourself as an “advocate” for either side. Ideally you want to span a place somewhere in the middle. It’s your job to implement the decisions of your superiors AND it’s also your job to look out for the welfare of your subordinates (both personal and professional welfare) and to be a representative for them when dealing with your superiors.
If you tend to be a leader who “sides” with your superiors in all situations, with no interest in standing up for your subordinates when you believe that a new policy is wrong, or that punishment being levied is unfair or excessive you will be seen as a suck up at best or a tyrant at worst.
If your boss tells you to “write someone up” for something you don’t believe they did wrong, do you just do it? Are you always afraid that if you argue or disagree with your boss that you may harm your chances for a promotion? Are you “scared” of your boss so you just do what your are told with no regard to your personal opinions of right or wrong? You are placing yourself and your concerns over those of the people you are responsible for.
Of course there is the flip side:
Are you afraid of being disliked? Do you avoid difficult discussions or dread delivering orders that you know are necessary but are going to be disliked? Do you overlook things because it’s easier than dealing with them?
You can’t be “one of the boys” either. Part of your job is being the person who has to do the tough thing when it comes down to it. If you don’t act like a leader your career as one will either be short lived or come to a dead end.
My suggestions? You have to look at yourself and make an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. A person who, in their heart of hearts, knows that they tend to be “one of the boys” has some hope. He/She knows that they have a weakness and that’s the first step to correcting it. Small changes over time is usually the best remedy vs trying to become a “hard ass” overnight. It’s the people who sincerely believe that their subordinates are simply people to step on in the climb for advancement that are the real problem.
And in conclusion: