Monday, November 5, 2012

Leadership...The Carrot or the Stick? I Vote for Salami!

Part of leadership is being able to motivate people to do what you want them to do. It’s not (always) about ‘barking’ out orders…but it can be useful to treat your staff like, well... dogs. Just the other night I put my leadership/management skills to work to get my wife’s dog off the bed after he climbed up during a thunderstorm. Believe me, that was harder than it sounds. This is no labradoodle, her beloved boy is a 160 pound man-stopper, and I’m not a dog guy. I walked into the bedroom after a late football game, my wife was fast asleep, and her canine shadow was snuggled next to her with his head on my pillow! Sigh, thunder makes him nervous.

Now here’s the leadership lesson: I had a couple of choices, I could go for strong-arm dictatorial tactics or work towards collaboration. Trying to force the situation could result in opposition. The dog had his own agenda that didn’t coincide with mine. If I pushed hard he could growl (scary) and a confrontation would wake my sleeping wife (scarier.) Since I was dealing with a 160 lb immovable object with teeth, I was leaning towards negotiation and persuasion. I needed to consider both our needs, but my management goal was clear…I wanted that damn dog off the bed. The options were the classic carrot or the stick. Instead of the carrot, I went with a slice of salami. It worked, and both big boy and I were happy. For that particular situation that style worked. It wasn’t weakness... it was a win-win. In my current field (higher education) this style is a go-to choice. But leadership works different ways in different businesses, and sometimes a tougher style can be more effective. If the dog had been chomping on my cat, for instance, my management style would have been more hands-on!

Good leadership involves influencing those you lead, not about constantly dominating them. You’re not the hall monitor at school, it’s in your best interest to consider your employee’s concerns and desires (which unfortunately are not as simple as a slice of salami!) so that you can inspire and motivate them to help you succeed. When you have a choice in a situation, aim for the win, not just for you but for the other person. You can still be the “alpha” by making that choice.

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