Yes, Drill Sergeant!

May 18, 2022 By The Siren Of Support

As leaders, we have the expectation that our people abide by the rules of the company, adhere to policy and procedure and complete assigned job duties competently and completely. Those that do, thrive in their roles and are considered “good employees”. The ones that bend the rules, disregard process and slack off are often seen as less than stellar, unmotivated, and detrimental to the team. Maybe they are. Or maybe, they simply don’t respect you. They will skate by doing just enough and staying off your radar to avoid repercussions. They will likely agree with you on most matters and appear to conform to your expectations. However, the moment your back is turned the complaints and barrage of insults begin. It may seem as if you are their ally, when in reality they see you as the threatening enemy. They do not respect you. They fear you. 

Leaders that demand, rather than deserve and earn respect create a work environment that fosters hostility, animosity, and lack of commitment to the team, the work itself and YOU. 

Many years ago, I worked for a software company that sold parts lookup CD’s. The man that hired me, and that I reported directly to, was the creator of the product. He was knowledgeable not only of the software, but also the industry in which it was used. When he didn’t know something, he learned it. When he was wrong, he admitted it.. Even as a salaried employee, I stayed late, came in early, and worked through lunch to meet deadlines. I presented ideas on how to improve our processes and the customer experience. If an issue arose, professionally or personally I was comfortable walking into his office without fear of judgment or penalty. I respected him fully, he deserved it and he earned it. 

A year into my time with the company it was announced that my boss, my now friend and mentor, was retiring. Our team needed a leader and one from the outside was brought in to lead a team and a product in an industry she knew nothing about. And didn’t care to learn. She didn’t make an effort to connect with the team. She came in like a bulldozer and made the team feel beaten down. She threatened the positions of people that had been there for a decade for not hitting sales numbers that were well above any obtainable goals. Us donkey’s had no carrots in sight. Only a stick smacking us in the rear. 

I left a month later, a few others went their separate ways as well. Our fear driven “leader” was let go shortly after that for destroying morale and increasing turnover. 

As leaders our personalities, experiences and training shape our methods of motivating and managing. What type of leader are you? How can your style of leadership affect your team?


“The Respected Leader”

There are many styles of effective leadership that propagate respect. It is not a one style fits all, as each situation and/or person may require a different approach. I suggest you blend the following styles to fit the needs of your team.

The Coach: This leader will push the team members to constantly “Get Better Everyday”. They are focused on improving the employees long term professional development. Training is a priority. The Coach will form bonds with their people and strive for unity of the team. Get ready to run some laps.  

The Cheerleader: The Cheerleader is your biggest fan. This leader tends to use rewards as a motivator. Empathy and inspiration are key. The Cheerleader will ensure that you feel valued and is a master at listening when you need to be heard. Pom-Pom’s and glitter galore! 

The Democratic Manager: Employees are urged to share their opinion and participate in the decision making process. While the manager still has the final say, the team’s input influences the outcome. Employees feel valued and have high morale as they are able to put their skills to use. Allowing for democracy in decision making makes buy-in easier as the team is working on a goal that was agreed up by them, rather than placed upon them. Have your ballots ready. 

The Visionary: This leader makes the team members believe in their vision. They are persuasive rather than commanding and have the ability to gain the team’s trust and commitment to achieve the end goal. The Visionary will allow for autonomy provided that the work is moving forward at an acceptable pace. Drink the Kool-Aid. 


“The Feared Leader”

The Drill Sergeant: There is no room for discussion. This leader holds absolute power. They are the decision maker and have no room for employee input. Often questioning of their process or choices will threaten their authority. This leader is a screamer and will become enraged easily. The louder they yell, the quicker their point will get across, right? Wrong. Micromanaging is usually present as the day to day job must be performed exactly to their standards. There is no room for independence or free thinking. 

Of course any style that you adapt to and practice will have to have some room allowed for the leader to be a critic. We must provide feedback to the employees in order to promote growth and efficiency. It’s not just what you communicate, it’s how you communicate it. 

A respected leader will have a team of people that are committed to the job and to them. They have a stake in the outcome of the business and feel connected. The feared leader that demands respect may appear to have a solid team that is devoted. That dedication ends as soon as the day is over. 

Even though my time spent under a drill sergeant was rough, it wasn’t all for not. I learned what not to be. 

Going back to school was better than spending one more day under her wrath. For that I must thank her.