Bridging the Gap
Ask any group of managers if they view themselves as an elite within their organization, and you can be sure they'll deny it. You'll hear comments such as, "I have an open-door policy" and "I take pride in always being accessible and approachable."
And in most cases, these managers will really believe what they are saying. What they don't realize, however, are the many invisible barriers—the "glass doors"—they put in place. Management perks and privileges (like parking spaces or special offices) create separation. Similarly, employees find it hard to get any sense of partnership or collaboration when their bosses hold exclusive meetings or conferences, hang out in management cliques, use condescending or dehumanizing language or withhold financial statements or other "confidential" information.
Here, again, we see an example of what separates leaders from managers. Leaders put effort into listening to, and learning from, people throughout their organization. Listening is the clearest way we can show respect. Listening builds trust. By contrast, managers don't listen to "their people"—usually because they're too busy telling them what they need.
Strong leaders, on the other hand, have their own kind of "closed-door" policy. They're trying to keep people out. It's just that most of the time you'll find their office doors closed and the lights off because leaders are so rarely satisfied with staying behind a desk. Leaders know that an office is a dangerous place from which to manage an organization. Leaders also recognize that few of "their partners" are going to be assertive enough to break through the invisible management barriers to come into their office and raise an issue.
Labor lawyer Stuart Saxe runs workshops helping managers learn how they can stay union-free. He begins each session by asking managers to rank, in order of importance, what employees want. Money always heads the list. But when employees are asked the same question, "Respect is at the top of the list," reported Saxe. "You have to understand that you can't be snobs. The employees who work for you consider their jobs as important as you think your job is."