Management by exception (MBE) is a management strategy in which managers will only step in when there are significant deviations from planned outcomes, which can be either operational or financial in nature.

Leadership by Exception is something entirely different.

I was criticized early and often in my career for having too much trust in those under my authority. My philosophy has always been one of allowing people the opportunity to fail. How else can you find out what someone’s capacity and potential is unless you do so? Each time that annual appraisal rolled around, I expected to hear another rendition and I was never disappointed. Yet, I was never criticized specifically for my performance. In fact, it was my performance that provided opportunities for promotion on multiple occasions, all the way up to Vice President of HR & Talent Development for the largest company on the planet.

When I say that it was my performance that provided those opportunities, I’m not being entirely accurate. It was the people that reported to me (either directly or indirectly) that made any of that possible. A fundamental principle of my leadership style has always been that people put you where they want you based upon how you treat them. I’ve never been disappointed in that respect either.

I’ve noted before that there are only two leadership styles. You’re either a servant leader or a self-serving leader.

Based upon how 2020 has played out, I’d rather see a whole lot more of the former than what I’ve seen of the latter.

If you’re an existing or aspiring leader, may 2021 be a year, where you embrace and embed that fundamental principle and let your people put you where they want you based upon how you treat them. They’ll do so if you let them.

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