Leadership by it’s very definition means to LEAD people! A title, office, desk, business card, or name plate does NOT make you a leader!
If you think otherwise, you’re a dork. Yep, I wrote it. Why am I so passionate about that? Well… there’s a reason I help leaders, entrepreneurs, and team members succeed: years of experiencing bad leadership.
Growing up in Lake Tahoe, I played two main sports – ski racing and football.
I started football as little guy in Pop Warner and played up into high school. Over the years I was a wide receiver, tight end, punter, kicker, corner back, and free safety. When I got to high school football, I mainly played cornerback.
During a play, I tackled a player in a way that slightly jacked up my ankle. Trying to be a tough guy, I didn’t say anything about it, and attempted to take care of it myself at home.
The next day, which happened to be game day, I could barely walk. I went to the game that day but didn’t suit up. When I saw my coach, I told him what I did and that I couldn’t play. He didn’t say anything to me, he just walked away.
A couple days later my ankle was healed, and I was ready to hit the field. I practiced well every day, but on game day I sat on the bench. Up to that point, I’d never been in a game that I didn’t play unless I was injured. It didn’t make sense to me.
For the next three games, I found myself not playing. Each game I would go to my coach and tell him I was ready to go in, and he would always say, “Okay.” Finally, toward the end of the fourth game of being benched, I asked the coach if something was wrong.
He looked at me and said, “Don’t ever TELL me when you can’t play! You ASK me!”
I was absolutely shocked and frankly, speechless. I couldn’t believe he benched me for four games without ever saying a word, without ever telling me why, and for such an incredibly lame reason.
I was the kind of kid who always gave his all. I missed all of 2 games from injuries in years and had played through all kinds of injuries. I never would have thought that I had to ask if I could sit out a game, when I could barely walk.
As a teenager I realized this was horrible leadership. Unfortunately, it was not the only time I would see a “leader” treat their team member this same way. For decades I’ve watched and experienced leaders who are more about control than they are about making people successful.
Punishing a team member, and possibly the team, is the worst kind of leadership in my book. It’s selfish. It’s disrespectful. It’s childish! I lost any respect and loyalty I had for that coach. At the very least, he had a teachable moment and he blew it.
If ever as a leader you decide to punish a team member, get out of leadership. If not to save yourself from your own misery, at least do it for those you want to make miserable!