Leadership as inverted customer service

On a macro level, I like to think of effective Leadership as a form of customer service. Customer service is all about providing solutions at a level the customer feels is a fair value. Leadership is really about providing solutions to employees in the form of removing obstacles and providing the tools employees need to do their job effectively.

For Example A we turn our view outward:

A customer wants to be able to watch Blu-ray movies. We sell them a high quality Blu-ray player at a fair price. The customer is able to achieve his goal of watching Blu-ray movies.

For Example B we turn our view inward:

An employee wants to be able to build a Blu-ray player to meet his quota. We provide the employee with what they need to produce Blu-ray players. This includes Blu-ray player parts and materials of course, however, it also means training and motivating the employee, as well as creating a safe and efficient workplace. It also means establishing standards and expectations for the employee, as well as his peers, and then having consistent accountability when there is failure to meet them.

This is clearly a simplistic view of the relationship, but I do feel it holds value as a unique perspective consideration.


Learn to play the game, but don’t let it change who you are.

(This post could also be called “Forget everything you learned in elementary school)

For most of us, the majority of our young lives are spent learning to “fit in” and “not make waves”.  Our strengths are only encouraged, it seems, when they meet the criteria of accepted strengths on some imaginary list.  This is done, theoretically, to help prepare us for the real world of being a grown up where the pressures to “fit in” and “not make waves” are often very real.

That is, of course, if you want to be a part of the “fit in” and “not make waves” crowd.  The expectation is that we all do.  Well-meaning parents, friends and teachers all operate from the perspective that we, at some very early age, have agreed to be a part of the fit-in crowd as the goal.  Most of us subconsciously do agree to be a part of the fit-in crowd goal after years of attempted, and ultimately fruitless, rebellion.

What about the few who don’t give in to the brainwashing?  In school, we are instructed to raise our hands, line up and wait take our turn.  Let’s cast aside the percentage of brainwash holdouts who do so because they are simply wired wrong, and destined for a life on the wrong side of the law.  I’m talking about those true individuals who see through the charade and realize that NOT being a part of the fit-in crowd is the path to true happiness and success.

For my 8 year old daughter, things have been a bit of a struggle, as she got her Dad’s stubbornness (and fortunately, her Mother’s looks!), which has caused her to spend more than her fair share of time in the principal’s office lately.  In fact, at the risk of losing my (imagined) “bad boy” image, she spent more time in the office in one week recently than I did my entire scholastic career.  To be fair, her teachers and administrators have been amazing, and we couldn’t ask for more from them.  It’s just that this environment has been built around efficiency and anonymity, not free spirits and children that are constantly asking “why”.

Understanding the system, but really realizing the amazing traits she possesses, we haven’t punished her for these issues, in fact, my advice to her recently was “learn to play the game, but don’t let it change who you are”.  I will be watching closely to ensure she doesn’t change who she is.  She is going to need those skills to conquer a world I just hope to make a dent in.

What is the legacy of a true leader?

Most of us have a manager (or coach or teacher) or two who stand out as being particularly influential or inspirational in our lives or career.  We also tend to have dozens who, as time goes by, have become mere foot notes, or have been forgotten completely.

Why does it seem that of all those who have an opportunity to influence us over time, so few actually make a lasting impact?

I think it’s fair to say that most don’t set out to be ineffective or utterly forgettable, yet that is exactly what happens more often than not. So what is it that sets the standouts apart from the herd of forgettablity? (I may have just invented that word, but it fits so well, don’t you think?)

I think it starts with ego.  I’m not talking about a healthy self-confidence.  It could be argued that no one can be a real leader without it.  I’m talking about the level of professional arrogance that causes conversations and meetings to take shape as a “one way” directive rather than a back and forth exchange that leaves both the employee and leader energized and confident about the relationship.

The quote “The Greatest enemy of learning is thinking that you already knowfrom Jack Canfield captures this concept perfectly – an alarming number of leaders behave as if they’ve already “arrived”, and close the door to further growth and self-development opportunities.  Worse yet, they are reluctant to freely give the knowledge they do have, perhaps feeling if they would lose their expert status if they were to share too much with those beneath them.  Clearly, this will really only limit the impact they can have as a leader, holding back the coach, and those being coached.  Beyond that, high caliber “pupils” will recognize this and seek to be coached by someone with the self-esteem to share all they have.

The best leaders I have seen not only treat you as if you are their equal and share the knowledge they have, their support gives you the inspiration and confidence to continue growth, as if fueling a fire, unconcerned, or really, hopeful, that your growth expands beyond their own.

The legacy of a true leader is formed in the leaders he creates.