Everyone has that uncle. You know, the one everyone talks about. (Not Bruno. We don’t talk about Bruno.) He’s at every family event. Always talks to everyone. When he’s not there everyone asks about him, talks about him, wonders about him.
I have that uncle and I’ve always wanted to be like him because everyone loves him.
Uncle Bob retired some 10yrs ago or so as a Sales Leader with a global logistics company that rhymes with UPS. He worked there since he started college, something rare in today’s world and even more so in our industry. Over the years I have picked his is brain in hopes of finding out what his leader secret sauce was. He was firm, required a lot from his team, had high expectations of everyone around him, didn’t accept excuses and could be tough- but everyone loved him, everyone. I attended his retirement party. It was at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, it was packed, and everyone had nothing but great things to say about him. I felt like a minor celebrity just because I was his nephew (favorite one at that).
That stuck with me. How could someone be so liked when he clearly demanded the best all the time?
As with many things, it took me a while to figure it out. Uncle Bob is personable, helpful, caring, sincere, truly believes in people and will do anything he can to help them. There is also nothing he would ask someone to do that he wouldn’t do himself. And it hit me, everyone loved Bob for the same reasons I did.
He was just Bob. He was true to himself and did not change who he was when asked to be a leader. He did not hide who he was when leading, or change what he believed in. Bob was genuine.
Too often leaders believe they need to be everyone’s best friend, or they need to be this borderline vicious person that removes their humanity from every personal interaction. I had a boss tell me one time that management is the loneliest job.
I believe you can strike a balance between the two, and strong, confident, good people like my Uncle Bob find a way to make that balance happen. You require from others what you require from yourself, but you don’t forget the human side of everything. You want your team to be their best selves. For that to happen, you need to be yourself (unless you’re a terrible person, and we both know you’re probably not). Genuine always trumps insincere.
Management isn’t the loneliest job, but it’s not for everyone either. We must be willing to make tough decisions, enforce goals, meet deadlines, implement company requirements, and take the heat when things are missed. But we can also change lives, as well as positively influence people and generations to come, while still being liked (most of the time) and respected.
We just need to be ourselves, like Bob. Good leaders are given the opportunity to lead because of who they are. Many people forget that or feel they need to be someone else to succeed.