I’ve always thought I have been an OK boss.  If you asked most of the people who have worked with me they would tell you that I was fair, that I involved them in decision making and most importantly that I was honest.  If there were things going on in the business that I couldn’t talk about I would tell them I couldn’t talk about it.

And I’ve had some very good bosses over my time.  The police force is a different animal and there were good and bad sub-officers but one thing that was drummed into all of us who did the subbies course was that your first obligation was to look after your troops.  That didn’t mean that you overlooked unethical behaviour but it did mean that you did your best to sort things out at your own level before escalating it.

I am a firm believer that the best leaders are those who lead by example.  I never asked any of my people to do things I wasn’t prepared to do myself.  For example, running the largest basketball association in the country I was always there helping people set up for events, I’ve mopped up spew and unblocked urinals, I’ve written press releases and dealt with cranky customers.  Everything required by my staff was also done by me at some stage.

I also think it’s important to invest heavily in your people, be flexible about work where you can be and in doing so I’ve never found a problem in asking people to stay back on their own time and do things because they wanted to help and be involved.  That’s an expectation I have of my people and I can’t think of a time when I’ve been let down, whether it was as a sergeant of police, a business owner, a consultant, a CEO or a senior manager.

So I get a little disappointed when decisions are made about areas I am responsible for and there is little or no consultation with me about those decisions.   It seems like you are less valued than others.  And that may well be the case and I would have to say that I’m OK with that too if for whatever reason people have a problem with my personality, work ethic or performance.  I am not saying that I am always right or that I am a great leader.  I am saying that I have enough experience to know what type of leadership suits me.

And therein lies the lesson.  Any leader worth his salt needs to understand what makes his people tick.  He needs to know how to motivate and needs to understand that everyone is different and that you sometimes need to change your leadership style to take into account the differences in your own people.  Trust and empowerment and involvement in decision making are the best way to do that in my opinion.   Maybe that’s the experience of the police force and the sporting background that has coloured how I do things.   But I’m also man enough to know that at times I’ve been wrong as well.

I reckon good leaders, lead by example, trust their people to do their job, empower decision making and have an element of the coach about them.  They must by turns be parents, coaches, friends sometimes, be problem solvers, know their people well so they can pick up when things are a little bit out of whack.

And if I was to apply one lesson it would be that of one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements – Always do your best, but understand that somedays your best is better than others.  And that should apply equally to yourself as well as your colleagues.