Note: This is the second of a 5 part series on Transactional Leadership. If you haven’t seen the introduction, you can read that here.
The role of ‘value’ in transactional leadership is based on the idea that people follow the leader because the leader somehow adds value to their lives. The benefits could be social, political, economic or even spiritual. Followers follow because of the value the leader adds to them. The leader benefits from the value brought by those who follow him. It’s reciprocal and the leadership equation continues successfully unhindered as long as everyone can clearly see the benefit of the relationship. The problem with value based leadership is that it’s focused on one single idea, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t get me wrong. That’s not an inherently bad question to ask. People are in business to make a profit. The reason we want to improve our leadership skill is because we have this vision of a future that’s better for us and the people we lead. But, ‘What’s in it for me?’ can’t be the foundation of our leadership relationships. What’s in it for me is transient. What makes me happy from one moment to the next is dynamic. Therefore the value I’m looking for out of any given relationship is constantly changing. It’s why married couples can fall in and out of love. It’s why coaches can be heroes one day and villains the next. You didn’t win the game. The value of this relationship has just been diminished. You don’t make me feel like you once did. It must be time to find a new partner in marriage.
‘Respect’ approaches relationships differently than ‘value’. Instead of leaders looking for what they can gain from others they recognize that every individual has intrinsic value apart from what they give to an organization. Out of respect for the individual the leader looks for ways to unleash the unrealized and untapped potential of those they lead. Instead of using people as a resource they challenge and inspire people to become more than they ever imagined possible on their own. Respect becomes the foundation on which a new kind of leadership is built. When respect drives the leader’s responsibility to lead and the follower’s willingness to follow the paradigm changes for how we relate to one another. Because of my respect for you I won’t treat you as a commodity or as a means to an end. Out of respect for you I have a responsibility as a leader to attempt to understand your hopes and dreams, to use my resources and experience to equip, encourage and empower you to fulfill your maximum potential. The follower has a responsibility here as well. Out of respect for those who lead the follower commits to serve the organization well. This service isn’t simply about a paycheck or promotion but about giving my best, being fully engaged with the responsibilities entrusted to me, and doing what’s right for the organization as a whole. Respect defines the way we relate in times of success, failure, conflict and cooperation.
Put simply, value looks for what’s in this relationship for me. Respect dreams of what’s possible for you as we serve together.
Next time we’ll look at two more words to disrupt our leadership foundation. In the meantime consider the following:
- Are your leadership relationships based on value or respect?
- What are the inherent challenges or apparent weaknesses in leading from respect rather than value?