Finding Middle Ground
December 3, 2010
Leadership: Gaining & Maintaining Support
"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it."
--- Marian Anderson
"The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority."
--- Kenneth Blanchard
While working in Southeast Asia in the mid 1990's, I became co-plant manager at a processing facility. As an expat professional, there were many honors that went along with that title. At the beginning, I used human relations principles, such as putting myself into the others place to help gain trust (not relying on my 'title power') ... after a few months, I was told that the factory team members liked and trusted me.
Then "the roof fell in" ... the owner, seeing how everyone thought well of me, believed that I could become an instrument of change to apply several unpopular programs. I was of the opinion, at that time, that the title of 'owner' meant that you could dictate (without question) policy. The factory members resisted and eventually saw me as a puppet controlled by the owner. The more I insisted that they 'follow orders' the more they found ways to undermine the new changes.
Ultimately, I was replaced by a manager who knew enough to please BOTH masters. That is, his boss plus the men & women that reported to him. Even though the owner did not like the fact that his new changes were not immediately implemented, the new manager gained his power by the support received from his team together with an intention to find a way.
What I learned was that your team must always see you as supportive of their needs... even to the extent that the owner / boss may not be pleased that you are unable to (immediately) follow their wishes. At the end of the day, if your people do not follow you then you are no longer in charge and will be replaced. And by forcing an issue you risk labor unrest / walkouts / sabotage.
At first I blamed my boss for putting me in such a position, then in honest reflection, I began to realize that he had probably hoped that I would have found some middle ground. What I could have done was to first obtain feedback about why they did not wish to follow the new policy changes and then to use my influence with both the owner and team members to find an acceptable compromise.
Yes, a painful lesson, but it has served me well along my career path!
--- Copyright © 2010 Edward G. Drennan
Share a comment or thought about this story with the writer:
Have something you would like to share?
An insight that has helped you?
We invite you to submit a story/article/poem.