“If you want to be on the top, take care of the people because they will take you there.” This was shared to me by my first employer as I struggled on how to make a name for myself. It didn’t make sense when I was a rank and file employee who did the nitty gritty of everyday deliverables. But when I accepted leadership role, my experience validated it as true.
I started working as a manager for a retail company in 2016. Leading a small group of individuals, I thought it was easier for me to influence the bunch. So, from time to time, I told them stories on how I took risks and transformed disadvantages into opportunities and how I equipped myself of the needed knowledge to be on the top of my game.
Limited resources? I told them I learned Excel from scratch without formal training until I was good enough to work around things using the tool. Difficult interactions? I told them that connections won’t happen unless it is actually done. I have given them tips on how to be successful as if the ABCs of success is at the back of my hand. It was great when we started, but at some point, a lot of flak were thrown at my direction.
As a leader, I made myself aware of the goal, and that was to make the rest of my team as successful or even more successful than what I have become. I have seen that they were recognized by the organization for what they did and how they did it. But, whenever failure comes into the picture, I started questioning what went wrong.
That’s when I insisted on how things should be done instead. I started justifying success by comparing it on how I did it in the past. I asked them to put themselves in my shoes, assuming my success story would be theirs too if only they did it exactly how I had. Then it retaliated. One of my staff told me that I have to let her do the things her way. She told me that as much as she listened to me as her leader, mistakes were inevitable and if she had to get a taste of failure herself, then I should let her.
Truth be told, I did not agree with her the first time. I argued that I was just trying to look after them and if I could prevent things from happening under my watch, then I would. But I started to evaluate my actions to understand where the feedback was coming from in the first place. I let out all the cards on the table and saw for myself how I made things happen. I was 100-percent certain that my intentions were pure—I wanted them to be successful.
But while I’m at it, I was projecting myself as the benchmark. I wanted to offer them the security of achieving their goals by going through the road I took. But doing so snatched them of the opportunity to make their own. It reminded me that I took the advice of my first employer differently. Taking care of the people is more than giving them what they need. Taking care of them is also trusting them that they may do a thing or two that will break them into pieces, but they will know how to bounce right back again. As a leader, the job at hand is to prepare them for the worst and let them know that you have their back even during the fall.
Leadership is more than merely giving the people you manage a template on success based on your own as it could their movement and paralyze their growth. Let them experience failure. Let them take a fall once in a while, but be there to give that little push when they need it the most.
Masanori Takamoto is a Master in Business Administration graduate at De La Salle University. He is a part-time lecturer at Industrial Engineering Department of Gokongwei College of Engineering of De La Salle University and works as an after-sales and information systems manager at a retail and distribution firm in Cubao, Quezon City. He welcomes comments at [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.