Do You Push, or Do You Pull

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Leadership, Ministry
Tags: , , ,
A few days ago I wrote a post about a conversation I had when I was in the Army.  Click here for the link.  The short version is that during a lull in a training day, we were tasked to pick weeds out of a rock bed.  One of the other trainees said that they did not join the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.  That post was generally about entitlement and the current trend of people who think they’re too good to do real work.  This post is going to be about the same conversation, but from a different perspective.

One thing that I purposefully left out of the details of this conversation is the rank of the person I was talking to.  At the time I was just a lowly Private (E2) and the complainer was a West Point cadet.  The interesting aspect of this conversation lies in the fact that this cadet was (unless something happened) on her way to becoming an officer in the Army.  She was on the road to be in charge of other people and to possibly make decisions that would put soldiers into life threatening situations.

My response to her, at the time, was that she needed to remember that day.  I told her that at some point, she would be in charge of people and she would need to know that this is how the other half lives.  I told her that soldiers were to do what they were told and that menial work is something in which most soldiers have an intimate knowledge.  I told her to remember that day when she is in charge of others.  I told her to remember it so that when she was leading people, she could do so with compassion and understanding.

Too many people lead by their position alone.  They are the boss, they tell you what to do, and make sure you do it.  They are sure to let you know, regularly, that they control your paycheck and, in turn, your life.  That is not leading. That’s just pushing.

Take over to the water cooler, minions!

If you are in charge of someone or many someones, think about how you get things done.  Do you use fear?  Do you use manipulation?  Do you make sure everyone knows you run the show, sign the checks and have all of the power?  If so, you are probably getting poor performance from your team.

On the other hand, do you spend any time figuring out the abilities, knowledge, passions and talents of those you lead?  If you spend time figuring out where people shine, you can organize your team better and get better performance from your people.  If you show your team that you care about them and their needs, talents, passions, skills and abilities, you show them that you care about them as a person and not just as an employee or volunteer.  If you make a shift in your leadership to take into account those under your care, you will be amazed at how much better your team will take care of you and the tasks at hand.

It also helps to remember how you felt when you were in their shoes, especially if you don’t have a boss anymore.  How did you like hearing your boss bark orders at you?  Do you still have a boss who treats you poorly?  If so, does that give you the excuse to do the same to your subordinates?  Pulling people along instead of pushing them around is a mindset.  People love to follow their leaders, but they generally do not enjoy being pushed by insecure or egotistical tyrants.


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