Think: What Is The Human Way To Handle This?

People use different approaches to leadership situations. One approach is to assume the position of a dictator. The dictator makes all decisions without consulting those affected. He refuses to hear his subordinates’ side of a question because, down deep perhaps, he’s afraid the subordinate might be right and this would cause him to lose face.

Dictators don’t last long. Employees may fake loyalty for a while, but unrest soon develops. Some of the best employees leave, and those remaining get together and plot against the tyrant. The result is that the organization ceases to function smoothly. This puts the dictator in a bad light with his superior.

A second leadership technique is the cold, mechanical, I’m-a-rule-book-operator approach. The fellow using his approach handles everything exactly according to the book. He doesn’t recognize that every rule or policy or plan is only a guide for the usual cases. This would-be leader treats human beings as machines. And of all things people don’t like, perhaps the most disliked is being treated like a machine. The “machines” that work for him to develop only part of their energy.

Person who rises to tremendous leadership heights use a third approach that we call “Being Human.”

Several years ago, I worked closely with John S., who is an executive in the engineering development section of a large aluminum manufacturer. John had mastered the “be-human” approach and was enjoying its rewards. In dozens of little ways John made his actions say, “You are a human being. I respect you. I’m here to help you in every way I can.”

When an individual from another city joined his department, John went to considerable personal inconvenience to help him find suitable housing.

Working through his secretary and two other women employees, he set up office birthday parties for each member of the staff. The thirty minutes or so required for this was not a cost; rather, it was an investment in getting loyalty and output.

When he learned that one of his staff members belonged to a minority faith, John called him in and explained that he would arrange for him to observe his religious holidays that don’t coincide with the more common holidays.

When an employee or someone in the employee’s family was ill, John remembered. He took time to compliment his staff individually for their off-the-job accomplishments.

But the largest evidence of John’s be-human philosophy showed up in the way he handled a dismissal problem. One of the employees who had been hired by John’s predecessor simply lacked the aptitude and interest for the work involved.

John handled the problem magnificently. He did not use the conventional procedure of calling the employee into his office and giving him, first, the bad news and then, second, fifteen or thirty days to move out.

Instead, he did two unusual things. First, he explained why it would be the employee’s personal advantage to find a new situation where his aptitudes and interests would be more useful. He worked with the employee and put him in touch with a reputable vocational guidance consultant. Next, he helped the employee find a new job by setting up interviews with executives in other companies days after the “dismissal” conference the employee was relocated in a very promising situation.

The dismissal procedure intrigued me, so I asked John to explain his thinking behind it. He explained it this way: “There’s an old maxim I’ve formed and held in my mind,” he began. “Whoever is under a man’s power is under his protection, too. We never should have hired this man in the first place because he’s not cut out for this kind of work. But since we did, the least I could do was help him to relocate.

“Anybody,” John continued, “can hire a man. But the test of leadership is how one handles the dismissal. By helping that employee relocate before he left us built up a feeling of job security in everyone in my department. I let them know by example that no one gets dumped on the street as long as I’m here.”

Make no mistake. John’s be-human brand of leadership paid off. There were no secret gossip sessions about John. He received unquestioned loyalty and support.

He had maximum job security because he gave maximum job security to his subordinates.

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