When you’re in a position of authority, it’s tempting to come across as all-powerful. After all, you want to command respect. So you might be a very benign omnipotent being, but you still like to seem in control all the time, however nicely.

The Rules of People

The Rules of People

That is a bit scary though, isn’t it? Being around God is quite daunting, however loving your god is. And if you’re an all-knowing manager or teacher or dad or expert in your field, you’re not someone other people can relax around. More to the point, you’re not someone they feel needs their support. You can clearly cope regardless, so what could they possibly add?

I met someone only the other day who was like this. She knew exactly what she was doing, why she was doing it, what she needed and where she was going. She was completely in control of her programme of nurturing and listening to people. She was absolutely terrifying, and I didn’t particularly warm to her. If she’d said she’d needed my help, I wouldn’t have believed her. She didn’t need anyone’s help.

And yet you know that you do need people on your side. There are plenty of projects that won’t succeed, arguments you can’t win, jobs you can’t complete, without their support. So it doesn’t make sense to come across as needing no one and nothing.

Obviously you can go too far in the other direction. That’s why most of us are more inclined to appear entirely self-sufficient. You’d be quite right in thinking that it’s a bad idea to appear needyand unable to manage. That’s not going to inspire confidence in anyone else. And if you’re in any kind of position of leadership, it’s important that your people know they can trust you, that you’ll look after them, that you know what you’re doing.

So you need to strike a balance here. Don’t be all vulnerable and look as if you can’t cope. But don’t come across as the ‘perfect’ leader either – never wrong, never flawed, always in control. This applies whether you’re the boss, mum or dad, the chair of a local organisation, or anything else. Look at other people around you in these kinds of positions. The very best ones do command confidence and respect, but they manage to be human as well.

So show your human side. Tell the occasional joke against yourself. If you’re a manager, talk about your family once in a while, or keep a photo of the kids on your desk. Ask the occasional favour – nothing too significant or demanding. Just enough to show you aren’t completely in control all the time, and you need the other person’s help for everything to run smoothly. Don’t try to be a benign deity. Aim to come across as a highly competent human.

It doesn’t make sense to come across as needing no one and nothing.

The Rules of People by Richard Templar, is out now, published by Pearson, priced £10.99. For more information see: http://www.pearsoned.co.uk/bookshop/detail.asp?item=100000000649236