3 Rules All Good Leaders Should Follow
I spent a good part of my 20s climbing the masthead. I had only one goal in mind and that was to become the editor of Singapore’s №1 young women’s magazine. When I finally got that coveted promotion at 28, I remember feeling like I had “made it”. The race I had been running in for years was finally over and I could now stop and enjoy the fruit of my labor.
The happiness, however, was short-lived. Instead of feeling that I had reached the top of my game, I felt stuck and out of my depth. Mostly, I felt like a puppet, a mouthpiece that conveyed the wishes and thoughts of one person (my boss) to other people (the CEO, my team, the sales team, etc.).
Whatever she wanted to be done and could not be seen doing them herself, she would make me feel it was the “right” thing to do and, I’d be a fool not to think the way she did. If she wanted to say something (usually mean spirited) to another colleague, she would make it seem like it was my job to communicate it to them.
And, I often went with her wishes because I saw her as my mentor and wanted to believe she knew what was best for me, for the team, and for the magazine.
The day she departed from the company, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. It wasn’t because I hated her. It was because it felt like I finally had the chance to lean on my own judgment and make my own decisions. I could finally be my own person.
The one thing I took with me from the entire experience was this:
I don’t like being anyone’s mouthpiece. If you want me to run the show, the buck has to stop with me.
As much as I would always be grateful for the opportunities given to me, the brief period spent as an editor under my mentor also shaped the way I lead my teams:
1. If you have something to say to someone, just tell it to them direct
I don’t like playing messenger and I always prefer it when everyone is included in one email chain. That way, if you have specific instructions for specific individuals, you can tell it to them and there’d be no misconstruing anything.
2. If you want me to make a decision, then you need to be able to live with my decision
There’s nothing I hate more than someone telling me to decide on something, then get all passive-aggressive about it, before strong-arming me into accepting their suggestions. If you think you know the best way to do something, then just tell me!
3. Leaders don’t always get it right. No big deal!
Leaders are human beings and, human beings make mistakes. As a leader, your job is either to stick with your guns and deal with any fallout or, seek out the advice of others and accept their points of view.
At the end of the day, what I want is honesty, open communication, and humility. I don’t want a he-says-she-says culture, and I certainly don’t want people to say things because they feel obliged to keep the peace.
40 down, 23 to go