I am the oldest child, and I remember having my brothers and sisters follow me around, and we sang, “Following the leader, the leader, the leader, we’re following the leader wherever (s)he may go.” If you remember, in Disney’s Peter Pan the kids would do whatever the leader did.
This is true within our companies as well. While it might not be a one-for-one monkey see, monkey do, leaders have a profound impact on their employees. I’d like to address just a few.
Work-life balance. A new employee was consistently working Saturdays without explicitly being asked to. When it was inquired of her as to why, she stated that her boss was sending her e-mails on Saturday, and she felt she had to respond. The boss, on the other hand, felt the only time he had to send out e-mails was Saturday morning. He would let the e-mails pile up and address them all at once. As a leader, it’s important to set your expectations. Let your employees know what the expected turnaround time is on work. Do you expect them to work long days and weekends to finish certain activities, or will you explicitly let them know if there is work that requires nights and weekends? Additionally, if you don’t value work-life balance, your employees will feel they aren’t allowed to either. Watch what time you are coming in and leaving. Often, employees will try to get in before or stay later than their boss. Are you inadvertently causing your employees to feel they need to work 60-hour work weeks? If you can’t adjust your schedule (which I would advise you to do to ensure you have a balanced life), at least communicate your expectations regarding your employees’ hours.
Priorities. Whatever is important to you will be important to your employees; they take their cues from you. A word of caution: if there is a company directive that you don’t agree with, don’t let your team know. If you do, they will be slow to adapt and you will end up sabotaging the effort.
Opinions of other departments and leadership. If, as a leader, you talk about other departments and leaders, most likely your employees will embrace your opinion and will be less likely to arrive at their own. If there is a leader you don’t like or another department’s policy you disagree with, be very careful how you illustrate that to your team. You may increase the barriers between the teams working together. On the other hand, you may smooth the working relationship if you speak positively about other departments and leaders.
As a leader, you are in the spotlight at all times. Make sure you are giving a performance that is worth repeating. As a leader, you no longer have the right to indulge in your feelings. Instead, your actions and words must support the greater good of the company.
Jana Axline is president and leadership coach at Axline Solutions. Through her leadership musings she hopes to inspire audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Axline Solutions.