As you go through life there will be people in this world that will build you up, and those that will tear you down.
Michelle Obama is famously known to have said,
“Choose people who lift you up.”
And I totally agree with her. But what happens on the other side? Where there are individuals, which for whatever reason, are there to tear you down?
With some reflection, I think that you will realize that you remember both and for different reasons. Those that tore you down and those you that brought you up are important to learning and growing. And that’s where the learning comes into play.
There’s a balance. There’s good with the bad. And we all know that. But the question is, what do you do with all of the input, positive or negative?
This is my take, if you’re leading a team (and you’re truly a great leader), you go down with the ship. You protect your people until the end. This is ultimately what you do to build your team and keep them enfranchised. This is how I operate. This is how I want to be remembered. I believe that there is growth with recognition.
But then there are those managers and leaders that take a different approach, maybe it’s tough love, maybe it’s insecurity, or maybe they just wanted it done their way. Their form of leadership may be construed as a top down approach, muddled with a competitive spirit. And they may find themselves with a crew of disenfranchised people that are so badly bruised, so micromanaged, so beaten down that they just look at the clock and pray to go home.
This is the tension that is so common in business—the push and the pull. But you have to decide for yourself how you’re going to manage your way through this, because I can guarantee that you will face this at some point in your career.
You must understand that you learn something from both types of leadership. I chose to believe that the lifting up approach is better—but unfortunately that isn’t always the reality. But there are simple rubrics that you can follow that will lead you to an understanding of where you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to learn.
- Understand the game. This is a game and we all have to play it. But it’s key to know what you’re dealing with. Whether you’re in a good situation, or a drastic one, you need to be able to read the writing on the wall. You need to understand the status quo and adjust to it so that you can do your job. I know that I’m making this sound easy, but know that it’s not. Every manager, boss, or leader is different. This is a challenging proposition to learn how to assimilate—but one that in the end will benefit you greatly as you move up the ranks.
- Keep showing up. I hate this phrase, but you have to suit up and show up. You can’t give up. You’ve got to try your best to manage the business environment. You will learn something from the spectrum of people that you work for and work with. And from that experience, you will discover how you want to behave and down the road, how you want to be perceived. This is a critical piece of learning how to be a great leader.
- Embrace adversity. Difficulty makes us stronger. In fact, in many ways, it makes us unstoppable. It teaches us to follow the road less traveled, to be creative, to think strategically, and to become problem solvers. Great leaders have these skills and they impart them on others. And those are the types of people that you want to follow.
- Know when to get out. I could give you all of the advice in the world, but if you’re in a dead end situation, then you need cut bait. There is absolutely no reason to put yourself in a culture built out of negativity, where you’re not learning a damn thing. Learning is growing and if you’re not, it’s not the right fit.
C.S. Lewis, writer and scholar best known for the “Chronicles of Narnia” fantasy series said,
“Hardship often prepares ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
There are people that will lift you up and those that tear you down. But in the end, you will learn from both.