At some point in our careers, most of us have had at least one boss that was totally ineffective as a leader. Chances are, the majority of that person’s shortcomings came down to their interactions with their employees.
In the workplace, we tend to think of such people as “managers” (and toxic ones at that) rather than as “leaders”: But why do so many otherwise capable people fall into the “bad manager” trap when they are given a position of authority? Here are just a few key differences between genuine leadership and management, and why good leaders understand the power of personal relationships.
Undoubtedly, good leaders are familiar with the notion that negative reinforcement and exterior motivations tend to create poor outcomes in the workplace. A person who is simply a manager rather than a leader will often punish the people below them in order to get results fast. When misused, for example, sales quota systems can essentially become employee punishment systems rather than tools for managing company performance standards.
If sales quotas aren’t met, in other words, bad managers will often make an example of workers to frighten other team-members. Such managers view workers as little more than drains on company funds. They will come up with excuses to provide as little positive reinforcement to their employees as possible.
Should we be surprised to learn that the employees of such people aren’t actually putting forth their best efforts on company time? Why would they? Why should they?
In such an environment, to wit, subordinates are seen as little more than means to an end. Whatever such a manager’s aims may be in making such workers miserable, people who work under such a person will have little or no reason to work hard or extend their abilities. They will lose any emotional investment in their job. And at the end of the day, they will leave their position as soon as possible. Indeed, companies that celebrate this kind of draconian management style will soon find their turnover rates going through the roof and their reputation going through the floor.
Conversely, a true leader understands that happier employees create better company outcomes in the long-term. But to have happier employees, a company’s leadership must understand the connection between intrinsic motivation and workplace satisfaction. Intrinsic motivation occurs when a person is driven by a personal need to achieve bigger and better things in a particular field.
Indeed, intrinsic motivation is activated only when a person feels that they are appreciated and valued for their efforts. It’s not a concept that can be reduced to a dollar amount or to the prestige of working for a particular company: If it was, the most prestigious law firms in the United States wouldn’t have higher turnover rates than your local McDonalds.
A genuine leader understands this principle. They must seek to understand the things that their employee’s value and how they will support and enable those values in the workplace. Without engendering a sense of genuine pride in the workplace, managers will be little more than company figureheads that provoke considerable feelings of indifference or even fear in company employees. That is not what true leaders are about or will ever be about.