In my first managerial position, I learned this principle and it is one I will never be able to forget, even if I tried. I moved to a new town with new people; to take over a management position that had been vacant for six months or more. The first thing I wanted to do was get an evaluation from the other managers there about the situation of the department. As you would expect, I heard some things that were going well and, of course, some things that were going not so well. The overall synopsis that I got was the department had a negative attitude. It was partly because of the lack of any kind of positional leader and hurt feelings from a few, for not winning the management job when it came available for interviews.
I received the down low, so to speak, on everyone in the department and then I asked what they thought my biggest hurdle would be. After a few seconds of silence, they said one of your guys has a very strong personality. I thought to myself, what does that mean? I thought again to myself that I’m a superstar and I can get along and handle anyone, no matter what type of personality they have. I’ll just tell them like it is, and if ANYONE doesn’t like it, they can hit the road. Besides, what this manager is telling me may not be that reliable. Just because he can’t deal with certain people well doesn’t mean that I can’t. So I just brushed what he told me to the back of my mind and went about my way.
As the days and weeks passed I noticed that the things I was saying and the different systems I was implementing were falling on deaf ears. Everyone was hearing the things that I was saying, but not listening to a word. I finally noticed that when I would say something that wasn’t totally agreed with or new, everyone would wait on Bayron to respond. Whatever he said is what they agreed with. When he agreed, they agreed. When he disagreed, they disagreed and then I had a whole department that was in disagreement with me. I quickly realized I was only a POSITIONAL LEADER. Bayron was the real leader. He spoke on their behalf and also argued on their behalf. The only reason people listened to me at all, was because I had the title and they had to.
I started asking myself why people were following him instead of me. Then it dawned on me, I haven’t added value to any of them and he had. He had guided them through the tough time without a manager, even though he didn’t apply or want the job. He had been their voice when they were afraid to speak out. He gave them vision about where their individual skills would take them, and he was successful in the position he was in.
So now I was faced with a dilemma of what to do. Do I try to overpower him as the leader or do I swallow my pride and become his ally? Let me tell you, I chose the latter and it made all the difference. I started running ideas and situations by him and some he would agree with and others not so much. But when he did disagree we were able to address it one-on-one and not me-versus-everyone. Eventually, he started to handle a lot of troublesome situations for me. It made my job hundreds of times easier. Not only did Bayron and I start moving toward the same vision, everyone else soon jumped on board.
Bayron is still one of the most successful people in the organization and is a key player for anyone looking to add value to their team. I will always make my own judgments about people and never rely on others opinions of others again. What may be a strong personality for some, will be a great leader and ally to others.