This month I have 5 posts to share. These are just my own realizations/revelations over the years. The total topic is Enforcer, Steward, Manager, Influencer, Leader. Today I begin with Enforcer. This article may be wordy and it may not seem like it has anything to do with Business Leadership but in reality it has everything to do with it. Bookmark it and come back later if you don’t have the time to read it now because this is one of the “character development scenes” if this were a movie.
When were hear the word “enforcer” we may immediately think of a Hollywood stereotype of a big man in leather wearing a badge and carrying a big gun. In reality there are enforcers in many forms. Before I get into the main topic today let me explain just a little about this series of 5 posts on leadership.
Both in civilian life and the military I have studied leadership. My sister was a huge fan of the topic and left behind dozens of books on the topic. There must be at least 10,000 websites in the United States alone discussing (and selling) the topic of leadership. What I want to share today is what I personally have observed and experienced relative to leadership. Most of it is not from any book so you won’t find a branching set of links to follow – though I may toss in a quote here and there. What my goal is here is to help me learn more about how I perceive these 5 roles and to hear your thoughts on the same. Responses are invited.
From my observation there are 5 separate, main roles in the leadership game. There are others and if you feel I have missed an important one please share! I could have included “teacher” or “adviser”, and in fact had those in my notes last year, but decided to include those as parts of the other 5. After all, 5 are easier to remember than 7, right? These main roles, in no particular order of importance, are Leader, Influencer, Steward, Manager, and Enforcer. I decided to begin with Enforcer (which I use both capitalized and non-capitalized in this article) because that may be the most maligned role of leadership of the 5.
You’re Not The Boss Of Me!
When we are young we have a rebel streak. All of us. And if this rebellious desire is not curbed or properly shaped at a young age then it can become a problem, or major advantage, later in life. You may have heard or uttered yourself those words at some time. While it’s far beyond the scope of this short article to examine the roots of that emotion it is important to note this is a base human attitude and actually signals, according to most professionals, a strong character. Later in life, when properly formed, this attitude can help shape the personality of the utter-er into a strong leader, manager, steward, or enforcer.
The graphic shows a few facts as reported by American students themselves to the CDC on a questionnaire. While these aren’t necessary horrendous ills they are a sign that young people have a tendency to ignore the dangers these activities pose. Even if they don’t ignore them they take action in spite of them. The circular arrow behind the facts indicates these activities affect the entire population and not just the individual. This is something that both youth and underdeveloped adults show a lack of: concern for how their actions affect others in society.
This is why we have enforcers in virtually every walk of like. If you just thought “judge” or “policeman” those are just the iconic enforcers in life. There are truly billions of others. You yourself have been an enforcer and have been engaged by enforcers you may never list. Parents and teachers may be the next most visible enforcers. They both have the position of correcting societal engagement malfunctions in their children or students.
Parents and family members, in my view, have the greatest responsibility. They are tasked with care and concern for the child as she or he grows and becomes an adult. In fact almost every discussion on wayward youth and lifetime criminals turns back to “home”. You will hear things like “he didn’t have a good home life” or “his parents were no good”. I suppose almost every religious writing, since some were plagiarized from others, includes something like, “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”.
Rules Enforcement More Than Law
Enforcers come in many different forms. We expect whenever we go to any sporting event there will be rules. Those rules must be enforced so there are people appointed to do so. Umpires, judges, and referees are an expected part. Even in pick-up games there is often an enforcer appointed to call the rules. Nobody seems to have any objection to these enforcers being present while a growing number of people are suspicious of, and object to, local, state, and federal law enforcement people both being present and simply doing their jobs.
But there are thousands of Enforcers we meet daily. In fact we ourselves become the Enforcer on a regular basis – even when it is not our obligation. It may be, however, that we see it as our civic duty. Sometimes that even gets us in trouble. In a moment I will share a personal experience about taking the roll of Enforcer when I should have chosen differently.
Have you ever been riding with someone who didn’t have on their seat belt and you asked or told them to “click it or ticket”? You were the enforcer. Have you ever shushed someone in church or a library – even just by giving them “the look”? Have you ever stepped into a fight as the peacemaker and tried to calm the situation? If so then you took on the Enforcer role of Leadership. You used your communications tools and interjected yourself into the situation hoping to shape the outcome to what you perceived as the best result. When you did this were you braced for an outcome which was different than that which you expected?
I use the following example because it sort of shocked me – and I don’t shock easily. Many times I have advised to take consideration of underlying emotions when engaging with others. It opened up something I had not faced in years and really made me take a step back. It even made me, for a few seconds, question if my motivation had been based on race. It had not been, but the response definitely made me re-examine.
Some years ago just after the election of America’s first black president I was in a local grocer and noticed a lady actually grazing on the fruit table. It was not just her, however, she was also freely sharing with her nearly adult children – by the handful. I mean cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and grapes were disappearing into these well dressed people’s faces from these boxes and bags of pre-priced goods. After standing there and watching them for no less than 3 minutes I probably made the wrong decision, but it wasn’t the worst one I had considered. I said, “ma’am, do you know that’s stealing from the people who buy those boxes or bags after you eat from them?”
Evidently she thought I chose the wrong words and she let me know in no uncertain terms that it was impossible for someone of my skin color to understand what someone of her skin color was experiencing. That she had been ripped off by buying bad produce before and she was going to make sure her children had only the best to eat from now on. She went on to tell me that “y’all are no longer then enforcers of right and wrong”. I’m sure I had a huge WT_? over my head at that point…
I was hurt. And most strangers can’t really hurt me. I was hurt mostly that I had chosen the wrong method. I had become the Enforcer when I should have become the Influencer. She was wrong, but I did not make the right choice to lead her away from her wrong. My Leadership method was lacking. Oh, she was still very wrong, but so was I.
The Enforcer Role of Leadership
It’s just one of the major roles of leadership we all take on from time to time even when it’s not our appointed position and we do not have any real authority. From herding co-workers back to the grind at the end of a break to telling drivers to slow down as they go through your neighborhood and thousands of more scenarios those are all important social functions of leadership. They are valid, necessary and often un-welcomed. When taking on the role of Enforcer, even when you are appointed as one, it is crucial to work on your leadership communications and actions skills to help ensure the best possible outcome.
Here is a short “quiz” to help gauge your progress throughout this series on Leadership and it will email itself back to you so you can keep it for future reference. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers and it will never be published so answer in as much confidence as the Web can allow.