Mission First, People Always
As young leaders serving in the Army, we were introduced to an important concept in both leadership and management: Leaders accomplish their missions THROUGH their people. Neither getting the job done at all cost nor caring about your people makes a great leader; great leaders know how to do both even given the apparent contradictions. Broadly speaking, as public company executives, “Getting our jobs done” means maximizing shareholder value. More narrowly defined, it means accomplishing the tasks specific to your business and in consideration of your competitive landscape that maximizes value.
Effective leaders and managers get the mission accomplished – Great leaders and managers do so by creating a culture and environment in which people feel appreciated and respected and wherein performance related feedback is honest and timely. The difference here is that the later leader – the one who creates a long term nurturing and caring environment is leading for the future and will enjoy the benefits of greater retention, loyalty and long term performance. Caring about people means giving thought to the careers and interests of your employees; giving timely feedback on performance and in so doing recognizing that even stellar employees need feedback regarding infrequent poor performance (how else can they improve) as well as reinforcement on performance that exceeds expectations. Great leaders ensure that those creating the most value are compensated most aggressively and they ensure that people get the time off that they deserve for performance above and beyond the call of their individual positions.
Caring about people does NOT mean creating a sense of entitlement or lifetime employment within your organization. We argue just the opposite within our article entitled “Seed, Feed and Weed to Succeed”. Caring also does NOT mean setting easy goals – once again per our previous articles the effective leader sets aggressive but realistic goals for an organization – see our article entitled “Be A Leader!”
It is very easy to identify “Mission First” leaders as they are the ones who are getting the job done even in the face of adversity. It is not so easy to identify “Mission First, People Always” leaders as it takes a long time to test whether the individual leader has created a culture that inspires people and makes high performance individuals want to follow the person from job to job BECAUSE THEY ARE A CARING INDIVIDUAL. The easiest test to apply for a seasoned leader is to find out how many direct reports have followed them consistently from position to position within successful organizations. “Mission First, Me Always” leaders find that their direct reports will seldom work for them in more than one organization or company while “Mission First, People Always” seldom have problems in getting their direct reports to follow them through their careers.
“Mission First – Me Always” leaders climb a ladder with rungs made of their employees, stepping on them as they climb to the top. “Mission First – People Always” leaders build ladders upon which all of the stellar performers can climb.
What kind of leader are you?