Leadership is hard. Whether you're managing a small team, or you're responsible for a large organization, the decisions you make have a real impact on the people around you. That means that it's something you should take seriously.
One of the hardest parts of leading people is that they don't always do the thing you expect them to do. Sometimes, that's because they don't know what you want them to do. Sometimes, they don't how to do whatever it is you're asking. Of course, sometimes they just don't want to do something.
That can be frustrating. It can be tempting--in that moment--to play the "I'm the boss" trump card.
As a parent of four children, I can relate. In fact, parenting isn't all that different from leading a team. In both cases you're trying to influence people to do things they should do, but often would rather not do.
For example, our children rarely do whatever it is we expect them to do, especially the first time. Usually it takes a few rounds of fighting, which almost always ends with the same four words:
"Because, I said so."
Now, every parenting book I've ever read has a chapter about how to talk to your kids. In every one, it seems as though those four words are the worst possible thing to say to your kids, which is a bummer to me personally because I've said them a lot. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes it's far easier to just pull out those words than it is to explain my adult thinking to a teenager.
The thing is, it never ends well. Everyone just ends up mad or hurt.
More importantly, it isn't just parents. Leaders of all sorts of teams say those four words all the time. Okay, sure, the words might be a little different, but the meaning is the same.
"We're going to try it my way this time."
"As the leader of this team, I think..."
"I hear what you're saying, but I'm the manager on this project..."
"I don't pay you to think, I pay you to do what I say..."
Every time you say something like that, on the inside, what you're really thinking is "because I said so." What you're really feeling is that your job would be so much better if people would just do what you said simply because you said it.
Of course, people don't work that way, which is why emotionally intelligent leaders should never use those four words. If you're leading people and you can't think of a better reason for someone to do something than "because I said so," you probably shouldn't be asking them to do anything. On the other hand, if you just can't be bothered to explain your reason because, well, you're the boss--you probably shouldn't be leading anyone.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions and manage them effectively. Usually, if you find yourself telling someone else that they have to do something "because I said so," it's because you're feeling defensive, as if your authority is being challenged.
That's understandable. No one likes to feel as though they have to explain themselves, especially when they are "in charge." Except, and this is important, leadership is all about influence. It's not about a title or position. People will rarely follow you just because you say "I said so," at least not willingly.
Influence, on the other hand, is always about relationships, and relationships require work. They require dialogue and communication. When you use those four words the goal is always to shut down communication with the expectation the other person submits to your authority. That isn't the same as submitting to your leadership, by the way.
Sometimes your team simply needs more information, or would benefit from a better understanding of whatever you're asking.It's the same with children. Usually when a kid pushes back it's because they feel something is unfair or they aren't able to see the future benefit of whatever you're asking them to do right now.
I don't mean that the people on your team are children, or that they behave that way, but I do think the responsibility is similar. Your job is to encourage, motivate, resource, and hold them accountable for reaching certain goals.
But, in both cases, you'll do well to recognize that when someone on your team is pushing back, the best response is to stop and think about what's actually happening. That doesn't mean you have to change your mind, but it does mean you should change the way you think about leadership.