Do you lead in such a way that your staff will have your back when the chips are down? Not out of a sense of fear of the repercussions if they don’t . . . that’s simply compliance. I’m talking about staff willingly stepping up to do what needs to be done when you are otherwise occupied, with or without being asked, to support you individually and ultimately the organization as a whole. It is a huge weight off a leader’s shoulders to know that when the unexpected happens, their team will handle what needs to be handled, no questions asked. And yet, I regularly see leaders at off-site meetings who spend the majority of the time on the phone dealing with issues at their office, or who never truly relax on vacation because they are tethered to their computer. Heaven forbid if a personal crisis hits and they suddenly can’t keep their finger on what their staff is doing. That’s not leading, that is micromanaging, and it is exhausting for everyone involved.
So how do you lead so your staff will have your back when the chips are down?
Have their back. Do you offer your staff a measure of grace, and step in to provide support when “life gets in the way” for them (even when it’s inconvenient for you)? If you are understanding of the individual challenges your staff face, there is a much greater likelihood that they will return the favor (you know, that whole Golden Rule thing).
Trust them to handle things. Presumably you have people in senior leadership positions because they have proven themselves capable and trustworthy. The best way to show them you trust them is to let them make independent decisions. Will they handle things the way that you would every time? Nope. However, the vast majority of the time the way they handle it will turn out just fine. And if it doesn’t, it provides a learning opportunity for all involved.
Keep them in the loop. Your staff can’t support things they don’t know about. It does not make you more powerful, or more in control, when you are the only one holding all the information . . . it simply makes you more stressed when the unexpected happens. A few minutes regularly invested in communicating with your staff can save you huge amounts of time and energy in the long run.
I’m sure my team has grown weary of hearing me say, “If you get hit by a bus tomorrow . . .” but leaders should be able to be sideswiped by the unexpected and know that their organization will be able to carry on without missing a beat. The three principles above are a good place to start.
Yes, leadership responsibilities can weigh heavy, but they become more manageable when you have built a team that you know will have your back.