My goal today is simple. I want you to think. Specifically, I want you to think about three difficult leadership questions and your answers for each.
By the way, your reputation as an effective leader may very well rest in the answers you settle on.
Okay, on to the questions.
Question #1: Can you think of someone with whom you work or engage with professionally, that you simply don’t like?
You know what I mean.
Is there an individual who causes you to dread those occasions when, due to professional responsibilities, you’re forced to meet or interact?
It could be a superior, a subordinate, a peer, a customer, a member, a vendor — the possibilities are virtually endless.
By the way, you’ve already answered the question if you’re sitting there, smiling, nodding and muttering a single name over and over.
So on to the second question.
Question #2: What specifically is it about this person that you’ve grown to dislike? Can you put your finger on it?
Are your feelings rooted in some attitude or habit, or are they based on some past experience?
Question #3: How do you normally treat this person?
Practically speaking, this is the most important question of all. This is where the leadership rubber hits the road. Do you do what you want to do? Or do you do what you need to do as a leader?
Truthfully, most of us want to avoid the people we dislike. But as a leader, we still need to be able to work with them.
Consciously separating ourselves from others, either physically or emotionally, can prove disastrous. Long lasting damage can be done.
And, unfortunately, the existence of strained professional relationships can be an embarrassing testament to overall leadership inadequacy.
So what’s to be done?
One of America’s greatest leaders also happened to be one of the most hated and reviled men of his time.
History records that Abraham Lincoln, as both man and President, was criticized, ridiculed, mocked and second-guessed by friend and foe alike.
If ever there was a leader who could have justified the creation of an “enemies list,” it was Honest Abe.
But Abraham Lincoln was a different kind of leader. And today, we can learn from his example.
Lincoln’s greatness as a leader may be best illustrated by his words.
During a frank conversation with an associate regarding a political adversary, history records Lincoln as having stated bluntly, “I don’t like that man.”
But then after a thoughtful pause he added, “I think I need to get to know him better.”
Powerful then? Without question! Possible now? Absolutely!
But only when leaders intentionally choose to approach professional relationships, even the difficult ones, with the same honesty, forthrightness and curiosity as practiced by Lincoln.
The long-term result — well, your personal image my never be stamped on a penny, but your professional impact may forever leave its mark on those with whom you come in contact.