The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind,
but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud,
but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly” ~ Jim Rohn
I am a firm believer you can be a tough leader with others if you are really caring for them too. What do I mean by tough? I mean holding the bar high on expectations and accountability. Being a tough leader does not mean screaming, yelling, and cursing at others, which I saw a lot growing up.
It is kind of like parenting. I have been a firm leader of my kids with high expectations and lots of love and care for them and their future. I feel like today my son and I have a deep respect for one another. He does not avoid me, we are friends, buddies, and co-leaders in our relationship since he is now an adult. Because I always started with love and care, I was able to be tough and still earn his respect. It was never about demanding respect from my kids but earning it by being caring and strong for them.
I worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken when I was a teenager. Mother’s Day was always our busiest day of the year. I had been an employee for a couple of years, but on this day, the boss came in screaming, yelling, and cussing. I was one of many employees, but I was also one of his go-to guys. I took my shirt off and tossed it at him and quit right then.
Many years later I had a boss who was a screamer and yeller and I literally held the phone from my ear as he yelled at me and let others listen while he was doing so, but I really enjoyed working for him.
What was the difference? A balance of care and strong leadership. I knew the one cared, was passionate about our mission, and cared about me, but the first leader was just an a-hole who thought he was strong, but really no one really respected him.
Unfortunately, there are still many leaders in the a-hole category today. I can be considered one of those at times because I am tough, focused, demanding, and very type “a.” But, I work hard to earn trust, respect, and build relationships. I do not always get it right, but I am aware of the needs for growth I am still working to improve.
I joined the Army in 1992 and had many good leaders, but one was a great leader. He was great because he stood strong on principles. But he was also great because the depth of his care was as strong as his stand. He was one of those leaders you could trust to tell you the truth and yet know that it came from genuine concern for you as an individual.
When we are around these leaders, they make us feel invincible. We will run through walls for them. They are strong, they are firm, they are tough, but they care about us and want the best for us and the team.
Have you ever worked for this type of leader? Are you one of these leaders?
Are YOU a balanced STRONG and CARING leader?
Very often, leaders tend to lean in one direction or another, usually rooted in personality.
One may be STRONG – able to drive people to complete objectives, “my way or the highway” – but his or her team members may feel steamrolled. The result: RESENTMENT.
One may be CARING – people know he or she cares for them – but they may be viewed as a weak leader. The result: DISRESPECT.
It takes a great deal of balance to be both strong AND caring. A leader who has this balance is a respected and effective leader.
So, I urge you to be both to your people.
Consider this your STRONG and CARING checklist.
Ask yourself frequently if you are leading with balance.
If you sense disrespect, check the STRONG list to see what is missing.
If you sense RESENTMENT, check the CARING side of the equation.