by Michael Holland    

When we hear the word Amish, the stereotype most people imagine is a horse and buggy driven by a bearded man in a wide-brimmed hat. We think of people who live without modern advances and adhere to strange customs like the excommunication of young adults who venture away from the community.  But in 2006, a horrendous tragedy in an Amish community in PA opened the minds of many to something much deeper.  The murder of 5 school girls and the wounding of another 5 brought senseless violence to an innocent group of children.  In the aftermath of this tragedy, the Amish revealed their true faith, providing love, forgiveness, and comfort for the shooter’s family.  They came and dwelt among the shooter’s family.

Moving up the hierarchical ladder of management grants us great privilege and opportunity.  But we also are granted thick glasses that dim our view of those below.   We begin to assume certain things about our employees.  We start to believe certain stereotypes, and we become parental, making judgment calls regarding what’s best for our employees. All the while, we think we are seeing clearly and making magnificent decisions impacting all those little folk below us.

Ironically, and sadly, it seems the ladder of management is a one way street, allowing only movement upward.  Each rung below us is magically taken away, discouraging our thoughts to dwell among our employees.  The view is better from up high, anyway, so why would we want (or need) to go back down there?

We learned a lot about the Amish from their behaviors in the midst of tragedy.  As they chose to dwell among the shooter’s family, they revealed their dedication to love others above all else, even their own suffering.

Leaders should take every effort to dwell among employees, to mingle among the masses, to engage with the everyday folks who get the real work done in our organizations.

Honesty and trust rise with proximity, and presumptions decrease.  Leaders should take every effort to dwell among employees, to mingle among the masses, to engage with the everyday folks who get the real work done in our organizations.  The proximity will produce awareness to what employees are really thinking and feeling so that we can make better leadership decisions.

So as you sit at the top of the leadership ladder enjoying the view, remember to climb down once in a while and be present with your employees.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • For the Amish to act as they did took great strength; for you as a leader to be more involved with your employees takes much less. But the benefits (trust, honesty, and understanding) are the same.
    • Have you ever seen this play out in your workplace as the result of a good leader?
    • How about the opposite? What happens in a workplace where a poor leader doesn’t take the time to “dwell” with their employees?
  • What are some actionable things you can do to clear up the lenses of your leadership glasses and build up your relationships with your employees?