No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Leader as Ambassador, Part One

Among the many hats you wear as a leader is that of ambassador.

In a geopolitical sense, an ambassador represents the nation that sends him or her. An ambassador makes sure that the position and interests of his government are communicated, understood and considered by the country he's been sent to.

One of your two jobs as ambassador is to represent your organization to the employees. It's up to you to get them to see what things look like from your boss's point of view, and to understand what the company's reasoning is.

A common pitfall for leaders: Joining in the "stupid managers" grumbling when the company does something unpopular. You may agree with your employees, but there are two bad outcomes when you do that.

The first is that you contribute to a lack of confidence in the future among your team. If senior leadership in your organization really is stupid, why stay?

Second, you make yourself look ineffectual. You're a victim, just like they are. They certainly can't count on you to make a better workplace if you're helpless too.

You owe your boss your best judgment on any issue, but once a decision is made you need to present it and defend it like it's your own. Consider the fact that your boss knows things you don't; you're looking from a balcony but he or she's up on the roof. The CEO is in a helicopter. They all have better perspective than you do.

So do what good ambassadors do: Promote your organization. Defend its interests. Try to get your team to like it and want to support it. After all, if you can't do those things, the only really honest thing to do is work somewhere else.

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