Buidling a Bridge between Employees and Leaders

Johnathan Hughes, Facility CIO, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Johnathan Hughes, Facility CIO, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Leadership comes in many different forms and fashions. If you want to fool yourself into thinking that you will agree with your leadership, at every step of the way, you can try. Leadership is more about an employee-supervisor relationship and if you disregard your employee(s’) observations, you will quickly falter.

I’m constantly reminded of an acronym that the U.S. Marine Corps instilled in every Marine: J. J. DID TIE BUCKLE. For those who served, you probably know exactly what the letters stand for. For those who did not, it probably seems silly or trivial but an open-minded leader would look into it.

Justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, integrity, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty and endurance all define the basic core of leadership. At various points in my career, I’ve had difficulty within all of these leadership qualities. I freely admit that because what it drums down to is that no one is perfect. When you’re in a leadership position, there are two factors: you and the employee.

In every leadership role that I’ve stepped into I had to take three or more steps back to learn the environment, the organization, and most importantly, the employee(s). All three of those observations seem to be the key in being an effective leader. When it comes to second-line, third-line and executive leadership positions, those characteristics will naturally erode due to the overwhelming responsibilities of the types of jobs but as a first-line supervisor or manager, if you fail to do these three things your employees will realize it and perhaps feel that you don’t care.

"​Honesty is the best leadership quality"

Being fair and consistent usually flies out the window because when you deal with an employee, you have no idea what that employee has been through. Maybe they’ve been through a war, a family crisis, financial meltdown or in a previous job where management failed them. I’ve been faced with all of these instances and sometimes it’s not always immediately evident. Over time, a good leader can see if an employee is facing adversity through observation and evaluation, peer-to-peer assessment, or direct employee-supervisor engagement. Communications helps a leader form a bond and react in a respectful manner while still having the right portions of justice, judgment and decisiveness.

So, how can a leader best be prepared to be able to react in an effective manner with an employee? Get to know the employee. Go to lunch with him or her. Be candid and honest in your assessment and their development. Share your successes and failures. Let them know that you care. If you notice differences in your employee(s’) performance or personality, there’s probably a reason for the change. If you’ve formed an employee-supervisor bond, you will know what is going on quickly.

Personally, I think honesty is the best leadership quality. I’ve had leaders in my past where something just didn’t sit right with me. Something seemed off. Maybe there was a lot more than what was being said. Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of high-level resources and points of contact at the highest levels of the federal government and when something gets back to me “unfiltered” not only is that unsettlingly that’s dishonesty. In my opinion, the best thing a leader can do is be honest.

When it comes to knowledge, it’s not about what you know or do as a leader; it’s about what you observe. I have witnessed many instances where employees go to “war” and tackle the hardest things and some of those things require assistance from others. Those who have initiative are the great ones and those are the ones that have a greater impact on the organization you work in.

Lastly, is loyalty? Loyalty is a two-way street. Just imagine if you had reached out to an employee and heard his or her story and you passed it around for others to hear. That’s not leadership. Active understanding is paramount in a supervisor-employee relationship. All-in-all, my employees make me into the successful professional I am today and I thank them for that. Leadership aside, we’re all just people. We all come to work in the same place regardless of our backgrounds.

Weekly Brief

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