Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
Once decisions are made, everyone must be “in the same boat, rowing in the same direction.”
“Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” I am particularly fond of this statement because as a leader you are often both leading and following. It is rare to do one or the other. Even while leading an organization, you still follow market trends, competition, financial results
And often while following, you still find yourself leading – setting direction and making decisions.
Then there is the third part – “get out of the way!” This may be read as “Don’t get in the way of people who are leading or following.” But it can also be interpreted as allowing others to do their best without interference or interruption.
I have been a manager for more than 40 years working in organizations as small as 5 and as large as 150. Throughout that time I have developed a management philosophy which includes five points:
- There is no such thing as a bad idea.
- Leaders must listen to and consider all points of view.
- People closest to the front lines generally have the greatest insight as to how to solve problems.
- Leaders need to be decisive and make decisions even when they don’t have all the information at their fingertips.
- Once decisions are made, everyone must be “in the same boat, rowing in the same direction.”
Problem solving is the most critical skill required of a manager. We are often presented with challenges that must be overcome, and a decision made. We ask for input, we review data, and we test theories. But ultimately what people want from us is a decision. Do we go this way or that way? Do we stop now, or go farther? Do we invest more, or do we redirect (always) limited resources to a more deserving project? A manager often stands alone in decision-making, all eyes looking to her or him for a decision. Oftentimes once a decision is made, “winners” leave and celebrate, and “losers” quietly point out the idiocy of the decision.
This often causes the plan to fail because without everyone “rowing in the same direction” you are doomed. It is critical that we honestly say to everyone “I believe that I understand your point of view; I believe you understand my point of view; and even though we may not agree, I’d like you to support the decision.” This allows everyone to know that their input has been honestly considered and that when the decision is made, everyone is able to get onboard—to help lead, follow, or get obstacles out of the way.
My current position as Director of Development Services for the City of Rochester includes responsibility for Business Development, Project Development, Housing, Real Estate
Now defined, I believe leadership and the proper management philosophy of helping everyone to get on board, will move us onward to success.
Dana Miller is a life-long resident of Rochester. He attended Monroe Community College and the University of Rochester where he received an MBA from the Simon School of Business.
Dana spent 34 years of his career at Xerox Corporation where he held a series of technical management positions. Following Xerox he spent 9 years as Vice President of Advancement for the Rochester Area Community Foundation.