Heading up a team or an entire company can sound like the ideal job, allowing you to take the most creative and important projects and leaving the less fun tasks for others. But if you want to be a respected or well-liked leader, you may have to get your hands dirty a lot more than you think.
Many professionals may not care whether they are liked or respected, but these days, people are more concerned about the type of employer they work for than in previous generations. This means you need to at least consider the impact being unpopular with your team could have on employee turnover, and ultimately, the company's bottom line.
But why are the dirty jobs so important for leaders? Surely the entire point of progression is to leave these menial tasks behind you?
Respect from your employees and peers
Some of the most well-revered leaders of all time weren't afraid to get their hands dirty, even when they got to the top. From Steve Jobs to Oprah Winfrey, there are a wide range of business minds that have continued to graft even when they were way past the point where it was needed. Doing this has contributed to them being respected by those who work for them, as well as their peers.
Besides creating a better working environment, it's also likely to reduce employee turnover and lead to a happier team. Studies have shown these factors can have a significant impact on productivity and profit for the wider organization.
Leads to better understanding
The old adage goes that you'll never know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes, and it's no different in the business world. It's easier for leaders to understand what they are asking employees to do, and what it involves, if they’ve had to do the task at some point. This not only increases mutual respect between professionals, but provides more accurate forecasts for the company.
It means you can reliably estimate how much work is involved in X compared with Y and better understand the capacity needed to complete both. This leads to not just better leaders, but better professionals.
What is classed as 'dirty work' at your company will largely depend on the culture and industry you are involved in. For some, it may be the small administrative tasks that are repetitive and boring, while in other companies, these jobs will be among the most revered because of their importance to the overall running of the organization.
It may be that arranging social events is seen as a dirty job, or perhaps encouraging individuals to use a certain communication tool. The specific menial task doesn't matter, but if you care about how your leaders are perceived, being involved with them couldn't be more important.