Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m in the wrong era when it comes to talking about good leadership principles. I know things change and that each generation brings something new to the table. However, based on a lot of what I’m seeing lately, I’m not sure it’s for the better.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, Washington D.C.
Norto Méndez
via Compfight

A few years ago I wrote about my issue with the term servant leadership and it’s overall concept. It’s the biggest buzzword in leadership today, and a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon; I’m not one of them.

In the last month I’ve seen a lot more leadership articles saying that leaders need to be more submissive to employees and should show more emotion in the workplace to help employees identify with them more.

Frankly, I see this as the “wussification” of leadership, and in my opinion it’s an extension of a part of what’s wrong with some of the young people and their work ethic, or lack thereof. I guess it’s time for a minor rant on millennials and some Gen Y’ers.

I played a lot of sports when I was a kid. It was rare for parents to come to our games; I think my dad saw me play one basketball game ever, along with one baseball game. Sure, it might have been nice to have my parents come see me more often, but that’s how the world was.

Also, awards were given out based on merit. Just like the Olympics, many awards were given out to the top 3 teams and top 3 players in the major categories. That was it; for everyone else, there was the season ending party, and then time to prepare for the next season.

Over the last bunch of years, even though I have no kids, I’ve seen where more parents are going to games, yelling at coaches for not putting their kids in games, saying they don’t care who wins as long as kids play. There’s also more emphasis on the phrase that “winning isn’t everything”.

Frankly, I think things have swung way too far to the other side. Coaches don’t teach anything except good sportsmanship unless it’s for school teams, and even then they sometimes have to deal with overzealous parents who think their kids are better than they are. If one team gets up by too many points or runs or whatever games are called; that didn’t happen when I was a kid.

I also know that at the end of some seasons, instead of giving major kudos to winners it seems that every kid now gets a trophy; what’s that all about? When did it become a good thing to reward mediocrity and a lack of talent? I agree that winning isn’t everything but I’ll always believe that there’s an important aspect to winning and lauding winners. Without that, why have sports at all? For that matter why have leaders?

I remember being in a seminar when, during a break, this young woman in her mid 30’s was saying how upset she was with the school her 14-year old was going to because they took her cellphone away. The mother was saying she called her daughter 3 times a day while she was at school to see how she was doing and that, as the mother, she should have that right. This was a Gen Y mother talking about her millennial child, who at this point is a young adult who’s had to have grown up with an interesting sense of entitlement that wouldn’t have been on the minds of parents, let alone students, when I went to school.

Dallas DA - Martin Luther King Jr Parade 2014
Dallas County District
Attorney’s Office
via Compfight

Last week I read a story where a study was taken that came away saying that millennials in the workplace today believe it’s up to leaders to make work “fun”, and that they believed employers should pay for them to get advanced degrees so they could do their jobs better. Then I saw some of the comments on the story where there were people in agreement; ugh!

I’ve talked a lot on this blog and in my two books about what I consider are good and great leadership qualities. I tend to believe that great leaders make sure their employees are well trained, have access to everything they need to do their jobs, and that it’s important to interact with employees and find ways to motivate them since their performance is ultimately what leaders, aka management, is evaluated on.

Having said that, I tend to believe that if those things are taken care of that it then becomes the responsibility of the employee to find their own way of being happy. Every company isn’t going to be Google and have video games, play cushions and “come to work when you feel like it” rules. Let’s face it; not all work is fun; that’s why it’s called “work”.

I also believe that if leadership does what it’s supposed to do in training employees that their liability has been met and that, if employees want more advanced degrees so that they can achieve greater success down the line that it’s on them to figure out how to get those degrees. If companies decide to offer reimbursement that’s cool, but it shouldn’t be an obligation unless it’s expected for those employees to keep the jobs they get.

That there are a number of people who are talking about leadership that are advocating these things is somewhat disturbing. Good leadership isn’t about allowing ones emotions to overrule the job. It’s not about genuflecting to the opinions of the employees. It’s also not about abrogating the responsibilities of leadership by being anyone’s “servant”.

Good leadership is about treating everyone fairly. Good leadership is about making sure everyone has the tools to be successful. Good leadership is about giving those who wish to participate in the process a chance to show it and to progress as much as they can. Good leadership is realizing that you might be the person in charge but that everyone needs to be treated as an adult.

Tell people when they do good. If they’re not good… they don’t deserve a trophy. That’s my belief anyway.
 

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