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We've heard it many times, "It's a dog eat dog world." The trouble is, some leaders believe it. They conduct themselves like the alpha dog in a pack, holding sway through intimidation.
Alpha dog leadership can eventually turn out to be destructive to the people, their organization, and the leaders themselves. To use another common metaphor, "That dog won't hunt."
An alpha-dog leader might chew up people to get more results and get them faster, but I submit that it takes a far different personality trait to engender the "continually" aspect of the imperative.
Having a friendly attitude as a leader means eschewing the alpha-dog way of leadership. It means being gentle, kind, helpful, and cordial in your relationships, even in times of anger and stress -- ESPECIALLY in times of anger and stress.
A likeable leader will get along with subordinates on a personal level, and they’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company, making the workday more enjoyable and boosting morale.
Here are 6 reasons why friendliness gets far more results in leadership
(1) We stay in control.
Alpha-dog leaders seek to control others. But they misconstrue what control means. In truth, such leaders are really out of control much of the time, since they're at the mercy of their emotional outbursts and the reactions of others to those outbursts. In leadership, the best way to control a situation, i.e., the best way to get great results, is to put the people in control.
Don't constrain them through short-term compulsion but liberate them by playing the "long game." Unleash their initiative and creativity by allowing them to make free choices, and they will be under your "control" in more profound and effective ways than the alpha-dog leader could imagine.
(2) People respond more openly and positively to friendliness.
Humans seek happiness, and friendliness is a great way to spread happiness. It enables you to communicate much more effectively because it bonds you with others in ways that anger, coercion or intimidation can't. Great bonding is the stuff that great results flow from.
(3) We are modelling good interactions, bringing the future into the present.
Whether leaders know it or not, their words and actions are carefully watched by the people they lead. People have an instinctive need to model those words and actions; or if they disagree with them, speak and act in opposite ways. By radiating friendliness, leaders are being the means that are the ends in the making.
(4) We make real issues relevant factors, not false issues like anger and intimidation.
Friendliness tends to clarify issues; intimidation, because it is associated with fear, obfuscates them. So often, intimidating leaders make themselves and their tormenting ways the issue.
Whereas the real issues should be, how do we get results, how do we get more results, how do we get faster results, and how do we get "more, faster" continually?
The fear they provoke is in the long run destructive to the leader and the people.
(5) With friendliness, we set the agenda.
"A good offence is the best defence" applies with friendliness. You should be on the offence with friendliness, displaying it even in challenging circumstances when it may take an act of disciplined courage on your part.
This helps you set the agenda in terms of how people respond to one another in these circumstances.
Of course, your friendliness will not affect some people who may be determined to subvert your leadership no matter what your attitude is; however, friendliness can, like the clearing of brush-lines to contain forest fire, keep rancour from spreading deeply into the organization.
(6) We increase the chance that others will support our cause.
The truth is that leaders can't motivate anybody to do anything. The people make the choice to be motivated or not. Friendly leaders have the best chance of creating an environment in which the people make that choice.
As Abraham Lincoln said, "If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing him of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause is a good one."
The two caveats
One, friendliness can sometimes be mistaken for weakness. Friendliness can BE a weakness if it manifests as a way of avoiding challenging people to do the hard things to get great results. In leadership, friendliness has a clear function which is to help people achieve constantly improving results.
This entails you challenging people to do what they often don't want to do. Anybody can be nice to them and let them do what they want. But a leader must continually be challenging people to struggle mightily for extraordinary results.
If friendliness doesn't help you fulfil that function then it's simply a lifestyle choice, not a leadership tool, and ultimately in terms of leadership, a weakness.
Two, even if you do use it as a strong leadership tool, you certainly can't be friendly 100 per cent of the time. If you try to be, you'll find yourself becoming a rather one-dimensional leader.
One of the most difficult accomplishments facing any leader is simply being who you are – especially under pressure.
To force-fit friendliness in a situation where you might not ordinarily exhibit it or to use friendliness to manipulate people into conforming to your wishes is not the best leadership uses of friendliness.
As a leader, understand that respect is a necessity and it can exist both as a form of compliance and in a freely given form. For example, most employees will follow your commands because they know they might be fired if they don’t; this is respect as a form of compliance.
Another group of employees might admire your leadership style, and personally wish to follow your directives so they can align themselves with that style; this is respect that is freely given.
But, regardless of whether the respect you command is freely given or given in the name of compliance, it is an absolute necessity for a leader; if your workers don’t respect you, they may not follow your orders; or they may be exceptionally difficult to manage.
For this reason, respect takes priority over likability. You can be a friendly yet respected leader.
By progressing in the way of friendliness, leaders can invest their lives and this world with moments of beauty and meaning -- and get more results in the bargain.