The “you-first” leader is the man or woman whose focus is on responding to the needs of employees, customers, and community before his or her own needs. Last week, we discussed the first three characteristics that help put those you lead first. This week we’ll continue with the last three.
This is identifying with and understanding another’s situation, feelings, and motives. People need to know they are accepted and recognized for their special gifts and talents.
John was the head of a large entertainment company. He was concerned about everything but his employees and their needs. He lacked many of the qualifications of a great leader, but one of his most glaring deficiencies was empathy. Whenever an employee (executive, manager, or worker) expressed some personal problem or work-related difficulty, John would immediately take that as a cue to either go into his own personal problems or tell the employee, manager, or executive how deficient the person was in his or her job. John made a lot of money, so most employees could not imagine that he could have any of the same problems they experienced. That didn’t matter to John. He just went right into his monologue. Over time, he lost all of his good employees and leaders. The company, now a shadow of its former self, is simply “getting by.”
One of the greatest characteristics of a “you-first” leader is the ability to approach another person as a healer in a spirit of help and compassion.
When she first came to work, Diana was hardly a candidate for employee of the year. In fact, because she had made some terrible choices as a teenager, she was in pain and carrying a load of personal baggage. But the “you-first” manager she reported to sensed that beyond Diana’s broken spirit was a person loaded with raw talent and drive. But first some negatives needed attention. Diana had gaps in her formal training. So the manager worked with Diana on a plan to bring her to a place of peak performance. As she experienced some modest success early on and began getting rid of self-doubts and limiting habits, Diana blossomed. Soon her progress was exponential. Her manager tailored a bonus plan for Diana. She did so well that she outran the plan, creating a financial strain on the manager’s budget!
To this day Diana continues to thrive in both her professional and personal life. All of that started with a manager who could look beyond his own needs and place another person first. His commitment to healing opened the door for Diana to walk through and enjoy her job and her life.
Persuasion over power
Many times when a job is hard to do, poor leaders rely on sheer power rather than persuasion. The compassionate leader seeks to engage others rather than force compliance. There’s a desire to build consensus rather than use authoritarian power. Jesus told compelling stories called parables to help people see that what he was saying was not only different but also better for them. His disciples were confused. Why didn’t he just use his power and “force” people to believe? Jesus knew that he was much better off helping people understand through non-coercive means. With their consensus came the real power to accomplish something great. Power trips and plays deflate people and do not allow them to think for themselves.