Leading From The Side

Leading From The Side

Wanting to write this paper for a year or so and never having the correct motivation has been in some ways quite puzzling to me. It is a topic I have great passion for and thought for sure I would find time to write it before last year’s holiday season. Then for sure in the first quarter of this year and now I am finally typing my first words on the eve of Easter. The challenge was finding the best way to explain this personal theory about how leadership is best delivered/shared.

Ever notice how we describe positive things with negative medical terms? You meet a person and what you remember most about them is their infectious smile and charm. A person walks into a room and it automatically lights up due to their contagious personality. Charitable giving is often described as; a disease of the heart that more people should suffer from. These are just a few examples to get me enthused about a term I felt could be used when describing leadership that produces positive outcomes.

We all know the various disclaimers provided when prescriptions and/or medical procedures are being explained, in many instances they can be bundled under the term; side effects. We will revisit this in a moment.

I was reviewing an article recently and a definition was provided for both managing down and managing up. Managing down was described as; the art of getting subordinates to do what you want. It addresses the notion that nobody actually cares that you were not the person performing the work, all that matters was you managed it. That was all that really counts, especially to other managers. Managing up was described in this manner; the art of getting your superiors to do what you want. It entertains the position of those at the top are no less in need of good management than those in the lower branches of the corporate tree. The challenge is nobody is around to manage them unless their subordinates do it.

I was reviewing an article recently and a definition was provided for both managing down and managing up. Managing down was described as; the art of getting subordinates to do what you want. It addresses the notion that nobody actually cares that you were not the person performing the work, all that matters was you managed it. That was all that really counts, especially to other managers. Managing up was described in this manner; the art of getting your superiors to do what you want. It entertains the position of those at the top are no less in need of good management than those in the lower branches of the corporate tree. The challenge is nobody is around to manage them unless their subordinates do it.Thus the term leadership from the side, this is what I have been so desperately wanting to write about for the past year or so. I now had a term for it; side effect leadership!

If you are of the belief that one of the main tenets of leadership is to provide a person the opportunity to stand in a place where they currently cannot stand alone, then you will grasp this concept. The opportunity to lead should be viewed as nothing less than a great privilege. It should not be viewed as a reward for past achievement, it should be viewed as the confidence one has in your anticipated future good work. It comes with great pressure to perform and as we know, pressure itself is a privilege.

If you ever walked into a retail store known for its outstanding customer service, you have then experienced side effect leadership. One that comes to mind would be Nordstrom’s, known for its impeccable customer service and serves as a model for others around the globe. If you walked up to a Nordstrom employee and inquired about the shoe department’s location, and you just so happened to be on the wrong floor or the wrong part of the store, they would walk next to you and assure you arrived at the shoe department. What they would not do is walk in front or behind you and they surely would never just offer directions.

Maybe you have never experienced this level of customer service? You are not alone, great customer service is only recognized when it does not exist. As leaders we often do not take the time to walk along side with those who have questions, although we usually answer it. Take the time to share why we do things, not just what it is we want done. Give those we are leading a guided tour of the past in order for them to understand the present, as it will better prepare them to develop forward thinking ideas about the future.

Just as the contagious smile, infectious personality and disease of the heart, all provided positive and lasting results, there is no reason the leadership style prescribed above should produce anything less than a favorable side effect!