Do They Smile?
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Last week, I heard a question that really caused me to think. The question simply stated, “Do they smile when they see you coming?” What a profound question. A question that every leader needs to ask themselves frequently. If those we hope to lead are not smiling when they see us coming, it’s a great indicator of our relationship with them. Leadership is a privilege, not a right. Earning followers takes effort, wisdom, and self-control. So, let’s take a look at a few reasons why they may not be smiling.

We’ve created tension. There is a big difference between tension and energy. If you’ve ever been around a great leader, there’s tremendous positive energy. Teams are inspired and driven to achieve excellence. Not driven by the leader, but driven by an internal desire for accomplishment. Tension, on the other hand, is a result of stress and anxiety. I recently heard of a boss who schedules meetings without telling people what the meeting is for. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they would do that. Are they deliberately trying to create anxiety and stress within their team? Our actions either create tension or relieve it.

We aren’t trusted. Trust is one of the foundation blocks of true leadership. When trust is lacking within an organization, rumors run wild. Conspiracy theories pop up, and people become guarded in their conversations. We often judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intent. When bosses assume the worst in people, their direct reports become very guarded and begin to shut down. Conversely, when a leader mines for the gold of good intentions, team members are much more trusting and open to admitting when they may be struggling. When they see their leader approaching, they are open to whatever the conversation might bring.

They don’t think we care about them. The old adage is so very true; people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. When our direct reports know that we care about them and have their best interest in mind, we are viewed as an ally and not the enemy. There is a wonderful account of a man standing along Pennsylvania Avenue when President Roosevelt’s funeral procession was passing by. A reporter saw the man kneeling on the roadside weeping and asked if he knew the President. With tears in his eyes, the man looked up and said, “no Sir, but he knew me.” When our teams feel known and valued, they will always smile when they see us coming.

Do they smile when they see you coming?