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Being a Leader and Being Led

Leadership isn’t easy.

From either side. Think about when you’ve been a leader and when you’ve been led. Unless you’re the President or CEO, you must negotiate both at the same time.

There are entire sections of bookstores devoted to leadership books and manuals. There are too many articles and blog posts and tweets too count devoted to the topic.

None of them have all the answers – or any of the answers. This post doesn’t make any claims to that effect.

But the point is to think about a key issue of leadership in the workplace – trust and respect.

Adam Bryant recently concluded his decade-old Corner Office column for the New York Times. His final article was a recap of the important lessons he learned (, including several concerning leadership.

  • “If you want to lead others, you’ve got to have their trust, and you can’t have their trust without integrity,” said James Hackett, the chief executive of Ford Motor Company, who ran Steelcase when Bryant interviewed him.

  • “By definition if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as the followers,” said Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. “I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold them in. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.”

Judith E. Glaser, CEO, Benchmark Communications, Inc. and chairman, The Creating WE Institute, wrote about her approach on HuffPost ( “The best leaders focus more on asking than telling. Their priority is bringing out the potential in others, which inspires commitment and ownership of the future. Asking questions ignites thinking, excitement and empowers others. Experiment with leadership practices that create a culture where every individual makes a genuine contribution to the whole.”

Jesse Sostrin, Director in PwC’s Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence, had a simple message for leaders in a Harvard Business Review post ( Delegate well.

“Elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved. When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal. Your involvement is a mix of the opportunities, mandates, and choices you make regarding the work you do.”

Think about which role you as a leader and as a subordinate. Are you leading in the way you want to be led? Are you being led in the way you lead? What’s the connection between the two?

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