Long-Lost Leadership Qualities Not Too Far Gone

Modern world has taken away some of the best leadership qualities, and it’s time to find those again and get them back

While modern leadership standards include open-door policies, coaching through issues and creating positive company cultures, there is one thing missing from many modern leaders and establishments: bearing.

This word is as old fashioned and hard boiled as it sounds — and it is a missing quality in most modern leaders. Society has turned its head against strict leadership and instead forcefully embraces and promotes free-spirited work environments where bosses are supposed to socialize and develop personal relationships to a certain degree with co-workers and employees.

I argue that this “coexist, can’t we all get along” way of management was an attempt at owners to be charismatic, loved by all — a way to get away from the “I’m your boss, do what your told” way of thinking.

Being you and socializing turns a workday into a soap opera. One day you’re happy and talk to Melissa about how she looks great today; tomorrow you’re upset and yell at Steve. Steve saw you be nice to Melissa yesterday and now resents you for it. You tell Steve something personal about what you did this weekend with your wife, and all he hears is how you have enough money to take weekend vacations and he doesn’t. Jokes get taken the wrong way, people get offended, they dislike your political opinions, they notice you watch Fox instead of CNN, or vice versa. You tried to be down-to-earth, but now everyone hates you for it.

Let’s go back in time a few decades. I’m sure you can think of an old boss or office clerk who had complete control over their professional image and put forth a commanding presence. Not the kind of strength that a screaming drill instructor would impose on you, but a calm, totally in control, very serious personality for whom you had tremendous respect for.

We used to have an office manager/part owner named Ruth. She kept the books by hand and was always very serious. When you walked into her office, she would stare at you in anger, it seemed, eyeballing you through the top of her specs as if to say, “What do you want?”

If horseplay or fraternization were taking place near her she would say, “Stop it! This is a business! A very serious business! Serious people have to do serious things to make sure we can all feed our families and keep the doors open!”

She showed up to work, did her job and went back home. Personal life was omitted from the workplace. I can’t even think of what would happen if a co-worker walked in and started talking about their family problems and what they did this weekend. She never screamed, she never gossiped, she never told you anything about her personal life and she didn’t want to hear about yours; it was an environment of professional courtesy, respect and professional bearing in its finest form.

Working men don’t mind following the strong, silent type of boss who seems to have mastered himself, his life, and his direction and purpose. One who has an open-door policy — but who is totally put off by small office quarrels and politics in the workplace. A guy who you could confide in if you have a serious personal issue, yet respects your privacy and doesn’t get involved with your personal business. A very, very serious man of integrity who would grab a room’s attention and respect the moment he walks in.

Bosses trying to adapt to the new generation of employees have replaced these bosses. It has been difficult for bosses to walk the line of that old-school strength with the new, softer approach; but this new work environment is longing for the heavy weight and seriousness that only an effective leader can strike into them.

One of the many things I have come to respect about my father’s leadership ability is his bearing along with his ability to say no. He is famous for his quote “Give me a one-word answer” that can be heard on a daily basis. Lack of emotion, very matter of fact, and direct. If he isn’t comfortable telling someone yes, he simply says no. There is no long explanation or excuse, he isn’t rude, and if you ask a question, he gives you an answer. If you follow up with “why?” then he will either give you a short, concise and reasonable answer or he will tell you that he doesn’t need to explain why.

He will then follow up with you at a later time that makes sense to go over why. You know where he stands, and more important, you know you overstepped a boundary; but there is never a question that “the line” exists.

Your consistent attitude of a very clean, confident and calm leader will become contagious and set a standard in your workplace. Your job at the end of today is to provide your employees with confidence and a winning spirit while giving them the tools and resources to make the company a profit.

Written procedures, along with measurable goals within a strict and rigid system that is closely watched, is the straight line to results. Keep your workplace a calm, focused, clean and routine workplace; drive the actions of your employees through your own personal actions. And don’t forget to keep your professional bearing — it will become the breath of fresh air and leadership that this crazy world needs today more than ever.


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