"Leave me alone..."

Posted by jlubans on August 22, 2017

Caption: Better not bug Mr. Busy.

A long-time friend from the book biz sent along an article about Transactional leadership vs. Transformational Leadership.
Essentially, my take away from the article was that the leader you do not like is always transactional (not good) vs. the leader you do like is always transformational (very good).
In other words, how you view the leader is in the eye of the beholder not in actual leaderly deeds.
In my career I have worked with one truly transformational leader. He changed the course of an organization in desperate need and did so for the better.
I can assure you those who lost power in the “transformation” reviled him.
I have worked with leaders who some might claim to be transformational but for me they were transactional, more about minding the store, keeping the place open and running than about innovating, inventing, improving. That was about it.
If improvements were made, they were often traceable back to the days of a previous transformational leader or to external influences.
Far more interesting than parsing transactional from transformational was my friend’s lead in to why he sent me the link.
He wrote:
“ … I've never given much thought to management techniques or approaches…. (M)y personal approach was just ' leave me alone and let me do what I need to do'”
Now, I know my friend to be an excellent representative of any business in which he worked.
He followed up and through, he resolved, he stayed in touch, he was pivotal to making sure the relationship of the customer’s organization with his service organization was strong and smooth.
He took personal responsibility for his work and there was no question about his integrity.
I did note that when he left a company to work for another it was almost always due to heavy-handed supervision. He did a very good job and did not need guidance.
When his view of the market clashed with that of the home office he would seek to resolve differences. If differences remained and became a burden, it was time to move on.
He worked best when left alone.
I responded to my friend’s note: “If you were working for me or with me, I would have had the good sense - and this is what set me apart from countless peers - to let you alone to do your own thing! I called it “letting go” (of those super stars in my shop).
I “knew” in most cases when someone – if turned lose – would do what needed doing. I made a mistake or two but, by and large, my decisions to let go resulted in very positive outcomes for the organization.
“Letting go” was so easy and natural for me, I never could figure out why peers across the business could not/would not. And, when I did let go, it was perceived by some peers as betraying my class or worse.
I did tell my friend there was a downside to my leadership.
While very effective at letting go, “where I screwed up was with the people who should not be left alone. I was too much of a wuss to discipline those needing discipline”, direction and guidance.
If I had to do it again, I would focus more on those needing direction and invest more in helping guide those staff to higher levels of achievement or simply move them into roles that might be more comfortable for them. I did this once quite by accident and that was a revelation to me of how sometimes we blame the individual instead of looking at whether the job is a good fit for that person.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out end of September 2017, ($26.99) with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
Cover: "Fables for Leaders" PRE-PRINT, 203pp. 2017.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

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