Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

An Inch, or a Mile

There are two styles of leadership. Ok – there are a nearly infinite number of styles, philosophies, models, and approaches. However, there’s one aspect that I’ve only seen leaders take one of two approaches – trust and management.

  1. An Inch: You will earn every single inch, starting from zero. At the beginning, there is no trust. Make a recommendation? Better come with data, endorsements, research, etc. You’ll spend 80% of the time justifying the recommendation and 20% of them time putting it together. You could call this group, micromanagers. They will feel overbearing and you’ll feel smothered. Why did they make you a leader, give you a team, set forth objectives, and offer a scope, if every thing you want to do, requires expressed written or verbal approval? When you earn an inch, instead of feeling exuberance at such an accomplishment, or even relief, you’ll instead feel empty. It’s a hollow accomplishment.
  2. A Mile: The opposite of leaders who manage by inches, are leaders who put their faith in you from the beginning. You’re given a mile of road on day 1. The saying, “hire smart people and then get out of their way” will ring true. When you make a mistake, and you will make them, instead of immediately losing an inch, you’ll partner to dissect what went wrong so that you don’t repeat the error.

I’ve worked for both types of leaders. I can tell you with 100% certainty, I would run through walls for the leaders who unconditionally gave me a mile. I can also tell you with 100% certainty, that while I will always try to bring my A-game, every day, the apathy created by those wanting you to earn every inch, made every day less than satisfying.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being asked to execute proper due diligence. In fact, it’s part of the trust. But, there’s a difference between trusting that you’ve done the hard work that few see and making you review that work line by line, including the footnotes.

Good leaders pick up traits from the good and adopt traits that address the experiences they’ve had with bad leaders. In that regard, I’m guilty. My leadership style is very shaped by the experiences I’ve had over the past 20+ years.

I’ve generally tried to identify large mountains to climb, but then defer to my team on how to get there. I trust them to offer me proper visibility when need, and to bypass me when appropriate. No, I don’t need to see and approve every job description. But, yeah, if we’re looking to exit someone from the organization, we should talk about it.

Want to spends $X within your budget to help us climb that mountain? Sure, after all, I assume you’ve crunched the numbers, done the math, and know we can afford to spend $X. However, if you want to go above budget, which happens on occasion, we should discuss why, how much, when, and to what end.

Ultimately, it’s about judgement. I trust my leaders will apply the right decision making skills, because I trust them. I trust them, because they know my four P’s: Priorities, Philosophy, Pace, and Pulse. I trust them to fail. I trust them to overcome obstacles. I trust them to lead and be leaders.

If you’ve found yourself unfairly having to earn every inch, every day – ask yourself, are you inspired and happy? If not, start looking for someone who will trust you with a mile.