Letting others shine while shouldering the hard parts

Written by Kristy Loewen

Many people can show leadership in the workplace, not just those who are in charge. And, sadly, some of the people in charge are not great leaders.

I’m sure many of us have experienced the difference between following someone because we are forced to versus following someone because they deserve to be followed. It’s tough having a boss you have to listen to and obey, even though you don’t agree with them. Maybe they are being shifty and perhaps even trying to steal your thunder.

There are those bosses who have no idea how to encourage their workers. They can even make you hate a job you once loved. There are bosses that you are scared to interact with because they do not like to be opposed. In my opinion, those people are not meant to be bosses and will certainly never be great leaders.

A great leader is collaborative. They take the opinions of others into consideration even if they are below them in rank on the org chart. They are approachable. They encourage. They give you all the credit for work well done and take all of the blame if something goes wrong. They make your job easier and more fun. They take on some of your problems to help you do your best. The best leaders work harder than everyone else to make sure that everything gets done.

I have had the opportunity to be a supervisor in my career, and it came naturally to me. I am someone who does not like to be controlled. I am more than happy to do my job and to listen to a superior, but I do not want to be taken advantage of.

This awareness of not wanting to be controlled myself prompts me to extend that to others as well. I knew my workers needed this job to support themselves and their families, but I took it upon myself to make sure they had a positive work environment and good workers surrounding them.

I had to earn their trust by asking what can be done better or differently, and then actually following through on making those changes. Trust is not just earned through words but through action. Action equals credibility.

Another way I earned people’s trust was to shoulder some of their problems. If I assumed responsibility for something, I’d tell them it was no longer of their concern and they could stop worrying about it. If someone asked them about it, they were instructed to come and talk to me. I applauded them for following my directions, while also taking the blame if someone else disagreed with those directions.

After a short time, I could tell my workers were happy and comfortable with me. I was especially aware of this trust when I told them I was pregnant and was to go on maternity leave soon. They were so excited for me, but also sad that I would not be there to have their backs.

This form of humble leadership involves taking the back seat more often and taking hits, even when you aren’t the one who made the mistake.

But some leaders feel threatened when those under their responsibility have a chance to shine. Rather than being excited for them, these bosses mostly care about how their workers will make them look good at their job.

They are trying to preserve their self image and are threatened by others’ success, thinking that their employees want to take over. This type of leader doesn’t understand that when you have happy workers who do a great job, it actually makes the bosses look good as well.

Jesus gave us the ultimate example of a leader. People followed Him because He loved and cared for them (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He took their worries away. He made them feel like they were a crucial part of God’s family. He acted as a servant towards them, sometimes taking on the jobs that nobody else wanted to do. For example, He washed His disciple’s feet, including the feet of the man who would betray Him (John 13:1-17).

He made people’s problems His problems. He stayed up late and woke up early. He made sure those around Him knew what was really important, and what could wait. He filled needs and bellies. He accepted that His reward for this work was not on earth, but in heaven (1 Peter 5:2-4).