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  • Writer's pictureBrian Patterson

Be the Leader Others Want to Follow

One of the key components of Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory and Reality Therapy is the question, “What do you want?” This is the basic motivation for our everyday quest. Every behavior is an attempt to satisfy this picture. Every time we do nothing it is an attempt to reconcile our personal pictures of peace with the world around. Peace occurs when I am satisfied with what is going on around me.

The limitation on my success is creating the world I want to see is often my perception of the people around me and their influence on my ability to create my masterpiece of a life. Dr. Glasser’s had another poignant question, “Whose behavior do you control?” most people, even in my leadership classes, answer, “My own.” My next (rhetorical) question is, “Then why do we expend so much energy trying to control others?”

For leaders, I encourage them to study and understand the Basic Needs (Glasser) of the people in their employ. These people depend on their leaders to create an environment where need-satisfying is possible. Most employees do not know about their own motivations. That is why the ‘what do you want’ question is important to ask and ponder. It has a long-term component and one for the short-term or immediately. There are times when the two goals seem to contradict each other. The leader is there to help others reconcile their behaviors to their goals and to search for the shared vision.

I lead a two hour workshop for line level employees with much of the same Choice Theory information to which their leaders have been exposed in my Bridging the Communication Gap: Some Assembly Required class, which I designed as part of our Leadership Development Program. At the beginning of the workshop, with no supervisors present, I ask participants to write on a Post It note the one thing they need from their leaders. Then we stick them on the wall in the form of a stick figure. When I ask leaders what how think employees responded, they will guess that it was more pay, better direction or easier work. Actually, the employee responses are much different. The #1 answer is respect, flowed by communication and listening.

Knowing that employees need to be respected, how does that look in your organization?

How do you demonstrate respect for those who are your responsibility?

How do you fulfill the need for communication?

How do your people know that you are listening to them?

Here is a quote from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, the account of this psychiatrist’s life in Nazi prison camps and the founding of Logotherapy:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” p.122

As a leader, what do YOU want to be?

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