Tuesday, August 04, 2009

7 Common "Ego Traps" for Leaders: Trap #3

Ego Trap #3: "My time is more valuable than your time."

A dear friend of mine recently declared: "Leaders make crappy friends. They're never available, they never return my calls. They're not the sort of people I can lean into when I need support or encouragement. They only agree to meet with me when they need something from me or want me to listen to them."

Of course, my friend didn't intend this as a blanket judgment on all leaders. But for many, this description is closer to true than they'd care to admit.

Consider for yourself: What would you do if you had a team member who rarely returned phone calls from other team members promptly (if at all), regularly showed up late to meetings because he was doing something "important," always expected other team members to adjust their schedules to his convenience and to meet in his office because it was easier for him, and even when he did meet with others, typically dominated those conversations with his own thoughts and opinions on the topic at hand?

If it were me, I'd probably fire a guy like that. But this description is not so different from how many of our leaders behave.

As a leader, do you think your time is worth more than other people's time? I'll be the first to say that this can be a tough one to answer, even for the most self-aware of leaders. After all, stewarding your time well is a key component to effective leadership, and leaders regularly have to guard their time and energy carefully to be sure they stay focused on the core tasks and responsibilities their role requires of them. But too often, leaders use their leadership responsibilities as a blanket excuse for treating others as "less than" themselves, and failing to extend to them the same respect and consideration they expect (and in some cases, demand) that others extend to them.

For example, do you:
  • rarely return phone calls from your team members quickly (if at all)?
  • often show up late to scheduled meetings because you were doing something "important"?
  • think the people you meet with should always come to you?
  • expect your team members to always bend their schedules around yours?
  • rarely spend time with team members that isn't directly related to work?
  • tend to dominate conversations (your thoughts, your opinions, your concerns, your insights), even if the meeting isn't specifically about work?
Leadership is no justification for being an insensitive jerk to the people you lead. It's certainly not an excuse to treat their time as less important than your own. In fact, a humble leader doesn't demand respect. Rather, he or she inspires respect by modeling it for the team. Showing up at meetings on time, returning phone calls promptly, meeting where it's convenient for them rather than you, showing genuine interest in your team members' lives, listening rather than dominating a conversation...none of these may seem like a big deal to you as a leader, but I guarantee your team will notice if you do them. Just as surely as they notice when you don't.


Lisa said...

I'd like to say I do these things unconsciously (and I try to be conscious of other people's time being as important as my own). I certainly hope that anyone I've ever led would feel free to call me out on any of the items you've mentioned. That's never the way I'd want to lead.

And now that you've made me more conscious of it, I'm even less likely to act that way, for which I thank you!

MistiPearl said...

Good stuff...Looking forward to #4!