4 kinds of people in any business environment
This article is from Forbes, actually I have seen it first around 2011. At that I was a small timer with very little experience in the corporate world. Today I understand the value of this write up so I decided to share it.
The Leader is the one who holds sway in the room. The Leader is not always, and perhaps rarely, the one with the most words. He or she is the one the people respect, and the one who holds the most influence. When the Leader speaks, the majority listens. The others in the room offer support to the real leader through nonverbal cues such as smiling, nodding, direct eye contact, and adjusting their seating position to face the Leader. Oftentimes, when the positional leader (who is not the real leader) is speaking, others in the room are fidgety, they stare at the table or off in the distance, or they carry on nonverbal conversations with coworkers.
I do not suggest here that most positional leaders are not the real leaders. It is my experience, however, that it is best to not assume position equals influence but instead to enter a meeting with a clean slate and make your observations from an unobstructed view. Remember that nearly every great CEO was once a typical employee sitting in meetings with bosses and coworkers. And nearly every great entrepreneur who set out on his own was in the beginning an unpositioned leader with untapped potential. To align yourself with such people is not only a wise strategy, it opens the door to opportunities you could not access on your own. Will not such leaders recruit those closest to them, those they trust, to join in their ventures? It has always been so, and you would do well to position yourself in their camp. The advantages of spotting the Leader in a meeting are fairly obvious. This is the person with whom you ought to align yourself more than any other individual. Not only will you learn from the Leader, you will quicken your experience and you will position yourself to climb as the Leader climbs. I have seen this time and again in my corporate experience. As the Leader moves up, so does the Leader’s inner circle. As the Leader succeeds, so do his closest supporters. Put simply, those aligned with the real leaders in any organization will receive portions of good fortune unavailable to the rest. Some four thousand years ago, ancient Israel’s third monarch, the wise King Solomon, said it this way: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” We speak of one being guilty by association, but the opposite is equally true: one is also successful by association.
The Loafer is, conversely, one you must avoid. He is the one to whom good fortune remains unseen. To be aligned with him is to blind yourself to various opportunities and stunt your potential. To observe the Loafer in a meeting is straightforward. He is the one who is late, unprepared, and uninterested. While meetings can certainly achieve high levels of boredom, the Loafer takes apathy to a new level, primarily evidenced by a lack of involvement. The Loafer will rarely make his idle stance obvious in the presence of a superior (and therefore rarely in meetings in which one is present), but his nonverbal cues invariably give him away: roaming eyes, slouched posture, lack of note-taking tools, and a static seating position regardless of who is speaking. Concerning the Loafer, the ancient Roman philosopher Horace offered proper advice: “That destructive siren, Sloth, is ever to be avoided.” To identify and then avoid close association with the Loafer is to avoid misfortune. The Loafer lacks the sight to see his own opportunities and therefore can only hinder the sight of yours.
The other character in your workplace with whom you should avoid close association is the one who is unwilling to participate in solutions and innovations but is over-willing to eat from the harvest of success. The Leech is more difficult to spot than the other characters because he is typically agreeable and excitable. He is easy to be around and easier to keep around. But beneath the surface, he makes no real sacrifice to achieve success and offers no extraordinary value to coworkers or the venture as a whole. Perhaps he fills an empty seat, but he fills it with little more than hot air. We often call the Leeches in our organizations “yes-men” and “yes-women.” They arrive on time and do what they’re told, but little else. To spot the Leech in a meeting you must understand the basic rule by which he lives and breathes: Be safe. To follow this rule, the Leech will always side with the majority, will never question the position of authority, and will almost never take a stance of his own. While he gives the appearance of involvement, he rarely poses a legitimate new thought or new course of action. He will, in fact, offer his “new” ideas by rephrasing one already posed (at times in an attempt to claim the idea as his own). He will consistently take the safest position, giving little thought to what is right or wise or innovative. His goal is to remain in the good graces of important people—to remain secure—in order to keep his job. The danger in a close association with him is that he will always see what you see, and nothing else. He has no sight of his own and therefore can do nothing but affirm or steal the opportunities before you.
Such an individual will never be a catalyst of success. His relationship offers you no new opportunities—and his proximity may actually pose a threat to those opportunities before you. At any point, he might steal another’s opportunity in order to advance himself. He is little more than a corporate squatter and will live off your success and the success of others as long as he is allowed.
Those who do not practice the skill of circular vision will often mistake the Leech for the Lifter. You must not do so. The Lifter is no Leech. An association with the lifter can do nothing but expand the field before you. She is capable of offering value through supporting action and self-initiated action. The Lifter is not fearful of questioning the status quo or the person of authority when necessary. She does so in a tactful but clear fashion when the best solution or strategy is in danger of being lost.
The Lifter is a Leader in the making. She is not typically in a position of authority, but she makes the most of the resources given to her and is clearly interested in personal and professional improvement. In a meeting room, she is actively involved. Her nonverbal cues give clear support to her passion and full engagement. She takes notes, faces each speaker, and listens actively. Her words, while not always well spoken, clearly indicate her motive to work toward the best conclusion. She is perhaps prone to argument to stand up for what she believes, but her unilateral humility makes her forgivable.
To maintain association with the Lifter has twofold value: one, she is a steady ally in the pursuit of good fortune because she will always offer an honest opinion and at times a new insight; and two, her ability to maximize her resources makes her an expander of opportunity. While she may not be naturally creative, her commitment to excellence will open doors through dedication and persistence.
As you assess the success that you seek to achieve, step back and ask yourself: What percentage of your network is comprised of leaders, loafers, leeches and lifters? Write these numbers down on a piece of paper and the names that are associated with these percentages. Do they satisfy you? Will the results allow you to reach your goals? As you enter the workplace today, begin to see with circular vision those people that help or hinder your success. In the end, only you will know if you need to collaborate more with the leaders and lifters and less with the leaches and loafers.
If you are interested in knowing how to make the strategic shift in the types of people that you desire to associate with - please send me your comments and let's get started. Time and relationships are two of our most precious commodities . Align them to assure your success is momentous!
May this immigrant perspective on business leadership serve you well...