I’d like to briefly talk to you about electromagnets. Let me preface by stating that I am in no way a scientist, but I did spend a few hours watching “Mr. Wizard” on TV in my younger days. As far as I can recall, electromagnets have two poles — a positive and negative — which act on certain objects through magnetic attraction. Items of similar material or makeup are attracted to one pole or the other, depending on their charge. You may ask what magnets have to do with leadership. Let me connect the dots.
Like magnets, people are drawn to leaders. A powerful leader has a “magnetism” that attracts us. Magnetism, in terms of people, is defined simply as the ability to attract and charm people. This attraction is not always for positive aspects. History, as well as movies, proves that some leaders with a negative charge can have as much draw as those with a positive. (Didn’t you ever wonder where all the bad guys at the secret bases in the James Bond movies came from?)
As a leader, it’s important to take an introspective look at your charge. Are you a positive draw? I think of it like potty training a puppy. Does your pup learn to hold his bladder because he wants your praise and a treat, or does he learn because he doesn’t want to be scolded when he piddles? Both methods may meet the end goal, although one has a positive and one has a negative charge.
Walk the Walk
Think back to the leaders for whom you’ve worked over your careers. I can distinctly recall two types of leaders; there were those whom I wanted to be successful for so that I didn’t let them down. I wanted to succeed not only for myself, but for them as well. I didn’t want to disappoint them — I didn’t want to be a negative in their positive charge.
There were also leaders whom I wanted to be successful for because I didn’t want to evoke their wrath of negativity. I would avoid them in my times of need because I didn’t want to be berated for not knowing an answer. I would make sure I got everything done within the timeline so I didn’t have to be reminded of my failure if I didn’t.
In both cases I completed the work, but there was a very distinct difference in why I did, and how I got there: the positive and negative charge.
As a leader, you can choose to be a positive or negative charge on those around you. Take an honest assessment: Do you walk the walk? Do you exude a positive mentality? Do you have a “can-do” attitude? Do you smile at work? Do you have an open-door policy with your team? Do you engage with those around you, or do you close yourself off from interaction? Are you driving from the front, or just pushing from the back?
Talk the Talk
Another important aspect of the positive charge is to talk the talk. We’re talking about coaching, motivation and feedback.
Let me share with you a recent example of positive coaching that really struck me. I was watching a college basketball game, and the commentators were discussing a star player who had just emerged from a significant slump over many games. He was shooting horribly, and had finally “got back in the groove.” They discussed how the Hall of Fame coach, a “true leader of players” as they called him, coached slumping players. He only focused on the positive. When a player was slumping with his shot, the coach didn’t point out the shots he missed. He didn’t discuss the issues with the player’s form or tell him what he was doing wrong. He sat down with the player and watched film after film of the shots the player made. He pointed out what he did right: his perfect form, his aggressive nature, his confidence on the court. Never did he show him the shots he missed. It was not a discussion about failure; it was a reminder of success. What a tremendous way to lead a team.
Now ask yourself, as a leader do you talk the talk of your positive charge? Is your coaching or feedback constructive and positive? Do you tell your team that they are great, successful, and important? Do you course correct by reminding them that they know how to do it right, or do you simply point out that they are failing?
Always remember that you are a magnetic leader. You can choose to be a positive or negative charge on those you influence and lead. Strive to be the type of leader that you would want to work for. Become the positive charge in your workplace and watch the success and commitment of your teams, peers and partners grow.