“What have you done for me lately, Eddie?”Eddie Murphy, Raw
The skit from Eddie Murphy’s “RAW” concert is hilarious, but a lot less funny when you are dealing with a one-sided relationship IRL.
If you’re over the age of 12 you’ve likely experienced a relationship that feels like it was solely based on what you can do for the other person. You know, the kind where you are the one compromising all the time and the other side never seems to reciprocate. Maybe there is an obligatory “thank you” tossed out here and there, but nothing genuine or heartfelt. These types of interactions can beat you down and drain the life right out of you. Now imagine that this is not a personal relationship, but the one between you and your boss. Uh oh, am I hitting too close to home?
Transactional leadership focuses solely on delivery. Tasks are assigned and expected to be completed. Sometimes there are rewards for getting the job done, but more often these types of leaders expect the job to be done come hell or high water. Technical complications? So what. Constantly changing priorities? Par for the course. Unclear objectives? Figure it out. Personal issues at home? Not my problem.
If employees are completing tasks as expected there is sparse interaction with the boss. Check-ins and status updates are all face-time you get. When things don’t go according to expectations, the interactions come in the form of reprimand, micromanaging or even punishment.
Often times transactional leaders operate with a fixed-mindest, believing people have an innate set of skills that can’t be expanded upon. You are either naturally good at something or you aren’t. Little investment is placed in leveling-up team members or giving them opportunities to stretch themselves because failure is not an option.
Though there is a transactional element to every boss-team member relationship, if it is the only element it can be disastrous. Transactional leadership lacks empathy. It treats people like equipment. It focuses primarily on whether the person is “getting the job done” or not. If the answer is yes, then there is no need for further investment. The equipment is performing as expected. If not, expectations are re-iterated and warnings are issued. If there is no improvement then the equipment is eventually replaced.
Humanistic leaders, on the other hand, look deeper than a checklist of tasks. In other words, they treat their team members like humans beings, acknowledging the whole person. Our personal lives impact our work lives. It’s impractical to think that we can separate who we are at work and outside of work. We don’t stop being a parent when we walk through the office doors. We don’t stop worrying about a sick relative, just because the clock is between 9 am and 5 pm on a weekday.
Every project has its challenges. Humanistic leadership recognizes that. Instead of micromanaging, a good leader looks for ways to remove obstacles and empower team members to do the best job they can do. They ask, “What do you need?” or “How can I help?”
Instead of a fixed mindset, they believe that people can grow and learn new skills. As a result, they give employees opportunities that will challenge them while allowing them to level-up. Strong leaders provide just enough guidance to get people unstuck, leaving room for them to figure things out.
Humanistic leaders show empathy and concern for their team members’ physical, mental and emotional well-being. They understand that life and family are more important than work. They also understand that people are loyal to other people, not companies. By giving someone a day off to grieve after they had to put down their family pet of 15 years, they are showing that they value the person more than the task that needs to be done. People respond to that sort of generosity. They want to pay it back.
Ultimately, by caring about people and helping them to develop and grow, leaders can build stronger teams. A little humanity goes a long way.