Clear distinction of the roles people hold as part of an organization is important to establish. This distinction will lead to efficient prioritization of issues and ensure proper task allocation. The people who you lead must know what their clear responsibilities are. It will lessen confusion and develop a sense of ownership. This write-up aims to shine a light on the other side of the manager/subordinate relationship. The social relationship you build with those you lead will matter, and social relationships are difficult to build right.
Unlike the clear distinctions of technical responsibilities, navigating the social dynamic of being a leader among subordinates is trickier to do. Is it better to socially define yourself as the leader among men, or should you make every effort to relate to those you lead? At what point of treating subordinates as peers should you stop and draw the line? Should you sit in the same office as those you lead? Should you refuse the perks you experience for being a leader?
Feeling Matters More Than Substance
How you make others feel will matter most in your efforts to treat subordinates as peers. People are rational beings. They will understand your position of authority, and all the perks that come with it. Once your position is established, you shouldn’t feel guilty about cashing in on the benefits it provides. What you should be in tune with however, are your one-on-one interactions with those you lead.
Treating subordinates as peers is an effort which plays itself out in how you interact with the people behind the positions which they hold. View their roles as precisely that, a role this individual has been assigned to execute. How you treat the individual should not change based on the role they play in life. Treat them with the same respect as you would your equal counterparts. Accept ideas, be serious in making them feel important, and strive to learn from them. Should you interact with a subordinate, try your best to make them forget the differences in your respective roles.
Witness True Capabilities
By treating your subordinates as equals, you’ll encourage them to be comfortable in their expression of ideas. Valuable employees are those who don’t hold back on voicing their ideas. Those you treat as a counterpart will begin thinking like one. They will be encouraged to think about issues you normally face alone in your role. They’ll yearn to impress you, and become comfortable in voicing their good ideas.
By treating those beneath you as your equals in conversation, you’ll be quicker to get a read on them. Making them comfortable around you will encourage them to let down their guard, and like all people, they’ll have the beautiful and the darker sides to them. Allow your subordinates to see you as a social counterpart not by hiding your weaknesses but exploring others’ more beautiful traits. Be interested in them as people. Go into conversation with the aim of blurring the roles being played and focusing on connecting as intelligent individuals.
Validity Leads to a Stronger Bond
Your act of treating subordinates as counterparts will serve to provide them a sense of validity. They’ll be seen as being trusted by a leader, and thereby will hold an improved social standing as compared to those who do not share that same bond with you. This is not a bad thing if they allow this validity to improve their performance rather than derail it. Make sure to keep their pride in check, but allow them to feel the sense of validity which connecting with a superior brings about.
Them feeling that the points they raise, issues they bring up, and solutions they propose are seen as valid by leadership will develop a stronger bond. They’ll be more loyal to you as your validation matters. They’ll continue wanting to impress you, as well as return the favor which you showed by treating them as your equal.
Assume that people are good-natured until proven otherwise. Assume that those you treat as counterparts, make feel important, and put trust into, will return the favor in some shape or form. You as a leader, serve to benefit more by making your subordinates feel important rather than the opposite. By doing so, you tap into the human element in others. They will begin to see you as a person with a leadership role, rather than a leader with whom they must oblige. You will encourage them to develop a sense of autonomy for their act of being your follower, rather than be forced to follow. They will choose to help you rather than be forced to, and will choose to impress rather than be forced to merely deliver work.
A Culture Which Spreads
The culture of people working together to solve problems, deliver on timelines, and perform under pressure is the final goal. Your act in treating people as individuals who aren’t any worse than you are will entice them to do the same with others. Organizations are built on hierarchies. The people you lead may be leading others. Your actions may serve to influence in exponential ways, creating an organization in which the value of common decency, respect, and nobility drive day-to-day interaction.