DR. CUMMINGS: What’s your job?

March 2, 2014 

Check your job description. I’ll bet it left out two important functions. Oh, I’m sure you’ll find your title and a few duties and tasks, as well as the expected results. If you’re lucky it might even tell you the purpose of your position and how it fits into the overall scheme. Sometimes it lists your reporting relationships, the equipment utilized, and the travel required. But it nearly always leaves out the two things that will either get you promoted or fired.

Be a Leader and be a Follower.

This is your job. It doesn’t matter if you’re in IT or HR or Operations or Project Management. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vice president, director, manager, supervisor, or if you have no direct reports. You have two functions that you need to learn and hone and constantly improve. If you perform these two functions well, promotions will come. If you fail at these, your technical expertise will not save you; you’ll be fired.

Be a Leader. Once you learn the specific aspects of your job, you will be expected to take the lead in that area. For example, the manager of IT will delegate duties for the computer conversion; the janitor who cleans the corridor outside the hospital operating rooms will organize the flow of traffic. But the question is, how will you perform these leadership functions? How will you lead the people around you? Top sergeants can shout orders in your face in boot camp; leaders can’t do that in business. I’ll give you two simple tips:

• Ask questions. Great leaders learn how to get “buy-in” from their followers by asking them questions.

• Take responsibility. Never be afraid to say you were wrong. And if you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll find it. And then, follow up--always!

Be a Follower. No matter how high up you climb, you’ll always find somebody to follow. Even if you end up owning the company you’ll still have customers and investors. All of us have a boss: somebody we’re serving; somebody we’re attempting to please. Following is just as important as leading, and sometimes even more difficult. For example, your boss has made it clear that he wants “feedback.” Unknowingly, he infuriates one of your key customers; how do you tell him? Or you really don’t like one of your board members and now you find yourself on a committee with her; how do you treat her? I’ll give you two simple tips:

• Be respectful. Our military brothers and sisters have learned this well. They may dislike their commander but they always stand at attention and salute. This kind of respect does not lessen their integrity; in fact, it enhances it. We can respect the position but disagree or even dislike the person in it. Great followers have learned this.

• Be tactful. Tell the truth to your boss or to your customer without giving offense. Find ways to deliver the “bad news” without pushing them to punish you. This doesn’t mean avoiding or abdicating your responsibility as a follower; it just means finding the right time and the right words and the right tone. Great followers, and happy husbands, have learned this well.

You can follow Dr.C.’s leadership videos at www.digitallydrc.com.

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