After the following Improvement Point was sent, a subscriber sent me the question that follows. My response follows that.

Improvement Point ..on Authenticity
“Replace rules and policies with values and trust. Effective leaders treat team members as responsible adults who want to do the right thing for the team or organization. They know that with good support, training, and examples to follow, most people will exercise good judgment.”
– From Jim Clemmer’s article, “Bringing Values to Life.”

“I agree 100%, Jim. But if they are not in place, how do you deal with the 1% who abuses this trust? These rules set the expectations don’t you think?”

There is a place for rules. And there is a need to enforce them occasionally. Managers start with values that (often unconsciously) treat people like children and need rules to keep them in line. They see themselves as enforcers and often hide behind legalistic, bureaucratic approaches to “treat everyone fairly.” They use position power to cover up their weak people skills and manage to the lowest common denominator.

Leaders start with trust and assume people are responsible adults. They enforce rules and policies as a last resort when persuasion power has failed to bring the individual onside. They continue to expect the best from people even when they see the worst from a few. They would rather be occasionally taken advantage of than bring everyone down to a rule bound, restrictive, and bureaucratic mediocrity.

Like everything else in life, this issue is all about balance. We need both management and leadership. But the greatest results clearly come from starting with leadership and falling back to management when needed.