If there’s heavy rain in the morning, the Depute Head of the school my sons go to is always out and visible in the playground.
He marshalls his staff so they’re ready to open their doors early, rather than keeping the kids outside the rain until the bell goes at 9am.
He’s proactive at keeping people safe, trying to move parents away from doors if they’re standing yakking, gently reminding the pupils not to run in case they slip. Dodging the spikes of the umbrellas as he works his way around the playground.
It’s impressive to watch as he puts himself right at the sharp end of things, getting wet himself while working to keep others dry. He doesn’t get paid any extra for it of course, but, in a sense, he does.
Because that’s what leadership is. And with the promoted post of ‘Depute Head’ and the additional rewards that come with that I would argue that’s exactly what he’s being paid extra for.
The admin? That’s a given. We take it for granted that someone in that position would do the extra admin. The leadership is those extra bits and pieces with seemingly no reward that don’t even make it into the job description.
And so if he can do that, then why can’t the Chief Exec of the railway operator next time there’s a meltdown? Or the airport boss next time bad weather forces multiple cancellations and delays. And where’s the leader of the government quango that invests public money in start up businesses next time a firm they loaned a fortune to goes bust, taking all that public money with it?
And I don’t mean issuing a one line statement. I mean standing there taking it hard if that’s what’s required.
Good bosses are visible when it rains, and of course, many already do this. I recall seeing former Scotrail Managing Director Phil Verser on the concourse at Glasgow Central on more than one occasion when things had gone wrong, literally taking it on the chin from angry customers.
It’s important not to hide when things go wrong and it’s not just a typical ‘crisis’ situation – it could be a busier than normal staff car park, disruption to the staff canteen, an IT failure etc.
Being visible as a boss achieves several things.
1) You properly recognise how bad things are because you see it first hand.
2) Having seen this, you might actually have a better chance at coming up with a solution.
3) By being seen to be doing all you can, you are spared the very worst criticism which can be levelled at a leader – not caring and not doing anything.