I will never forget the lesson I learned the day I heard these words. It was after a long day on the highway, I instinctively stopped at a well-known retail store. Daily, I see individuals using automatic wheelchairs, riding bicycles and walking; risking their lives on a very busy highway to get here. I’d say these Customers are Valuable.
On this day, I and other customers walked into what I call the “Conflict Zone.” It was unbelievable, customers were being stopped at the door, only to hear a brash voice say, Hello, I’m the District Manager! These words lacked authenticity, empathy, and enthusiasm, and revealed the antagonistic motive of disgracing the store manager.
John Maxwell states “Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership.” Leaders intentionally add value to those around them, whether they are our customers, our family, our colleagues, or our subordinates, Everything and Everyone has value.
In John’s book The Five Levels of Leadership, the first level he identifies is Position. Frankly, position is the lowest level of leadership. It requires no effort to achieve and no ability. Anyone can be appointed to a position. Now having a leadership position within itself is not wrong, but relying on the position to get people to follow you is. Positional leadership only works if you have leverage over your followers.
On this occasion, the District Manager exercised positional leadership and immaturity by imploring her family members to act as customers to solicit responses from the clerks and store manager. When that failed, she resorted to berating the store manager right in front of the very customers whom company core values say they should be Respecting.
To the store managers defense, I’ve seen her in action where she is always assisting her team with stocking, sometimes working by herself, and never once did she complain to her customers. So why such a drop the hammer moment with clearly a dedicated employee? I submit to you, the District Manager had no influence and therefore no followers. She assumed her position would automatically garner respect and influence over her subordinates.
To grow as leader, it’s paramount to understand at level one, you need followers. Zig Ziglar explains “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” In this case, the district manager could have easily established her credibility by assisting in stocking shelves and checking out customers, and privately coaching the manager on store procedures. That’s how you gain influence and followers.
Finally, John teaches that level one is the first step where you should be investing in your growth and potential as a leader. Use your time at this level to learn how to lead yourself – through priorities and self-discipline – and you’ll be ready to move to the next level, and hopefully, you never have to say I’m the District Manager!
Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. -Margaret Thatcher