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Leader in Name, or Leader in Fact?


Get your staff to perform like a NASCAR pit crew.

My last Minyanville feature, Power, Prestige - But No Respect generated some insightful feedback from Minyans. I agree with those who said that being a manager wasn't about inspiring that warm-and-fuzzy, everybody-loves-me feeling - in short, "We're not running a popularity contest."
Such a relationship with your direct reports and others in the organization would thwart your real agenda, especially in those critical moments when you need them to work independently and produce tangible results. In those times of crisis (and you never know when they'll occur) you need your team members to operate with the precision of a Swiss watch and the harmony of a synchronized swim team.
This means that the relationship you have with your people must be based on mutual respect, earned over time. That's the only way to get their best effort, at full throttle, when you need them most. Managing by intimidation won't get that respect thing going any more than being their buddy will.
In my previous column, I described the difference between popular authority and institutional authority. You're either popular and well-respected, or you have authority simply because you have a title, a corner office and other trappings of institutional leadership. Think of it as the difference between being a leader-in-name or a leader-in-fact.
Both designations can be extremely limiting - but will your people kick into gear when you need them to, with all the motivation and enthusiasm you're hoping for and that your organization is depending on you to produce?

In the end, it's not about your popularity or off-the-court friendships with the people you work with. It's about the fact that your organization pays you, as a leader, to have a solid, mutually-respectful relationship with everyone in your sphere of influence. It's about being a leader-in-fact, which includes earning popular authority.
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