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Leadership - The Proper Relationship with Subordinates

Aug 17, 2007
In the army, "the men" are kept separated from those known as "the officers." This comes from the idea that the leaders should not be too close to the individuals they command. In the military this makes a lot of logical sense because if you are too close, you might have a difficult time making decisions that could result in harm to someone. On the army base they have an officers club, where the officers eat and socialize. On Sundays the facility is available to everyone, but there is a separate side for the officers and a separate side for the men. Side for the officers is generally a little fancier with better chairs and table arrangements.

When someone becomes a general, it is said that they are sent to a special "general school" to learn how to behave as a general. One of the things they are taught in the general school is to not associate with other military individuals on a social basis in order to maintain a degree of separation between themselves and the people the command. (Of course some of them may let it go to their head and behave like that anyway, but that is a different issue.)

A certain amount of separation that is prudent in non-military leadership as well. If you are overly friendly with your subordinates, it may be difficult for them to respect your authority. Many leaders end up at one extreme or the other. On the overly familiar side of things, they look to their subordinates to provide social interaction. Putting yourself in this type of situation can impede your judgment about an individual's contribution or effectiveness within the organization. It is also detrimental because if all of your personal friends report to you, it is possible to end up with a bunch of sycophants instead of true honest friends who don't fear they will endanger their job by telling you the truth.

On the other extreme side are the leaders who place themselves way above the people they direct. They see themselves as better than the people "below" them and make it abundantly clear that they are superior. Somewhere in between these extremes is a healthy equilibrium. Part of your job as a leader is to identify and sense the proper poise that will give your subordinates the fulfillment of feeling like they have a relationship with you while keeping yourself in an authority position.
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Please visit www.leadership501.com to find out more about relating to your subordinates and other leadership topics.
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