By Rich Lindblom, YSN

Dictators dictate.
Rulers rule.
Oppressors oppress.
Leaders lead.
Teachers teach.
Preachers preach.

Which one of those best describes you?  What is your leadership style?  Take some time to really think about which one of the above types you really are because it’s critically important to your company’s long-term success.

Look, there are literally an endless number of different ways to lead a company.  But I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that people would much rather work for one of the last three types of leaders than the first three. 

Sure, it’s your company and you can run it any way you want.  So if you want to be a tyrannical dictator, that’s your prerogative.  After all, your employees really only have two choices:  Do your bidding or find a new job. 

The problem is that if you are a dictator, a ruler or an oppressor, the odds are pretty good that you have a whole lot of unhappy employees and a bad company culture.  One quick and easy test is employee turnover.  If you have a high amount of employee turnover, it’s a sure sign of trouble and you should probably look at the top of your company’s organizational flow chart.  Whether you want to admit it or not, your company’s culture starts at the top and flows downward from there. 

Let’s all take a real simple test that will help you figure out if you are a Leader or a Dictator. I call it the W&C test.

Do you ask your employees to do things or order them to do things?  It’s a very subtle difference and it’s all in the choice of letters.  Here’s the thought process: Words that start with the letter “W” are typically requests, whereas words that start with the letter “C” are orders.

Sound crazy?  Try it. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes for a moment as you make these two similar but totally different statements: Would you take out the garbage?  Could you take out the garbage?

Which one sounds like a polite request, and which one sounds like a command that they have no choice but to follow? 

Okay, how about this pair: Will you take out the garbage?  Can you take out the garbage?

It’s the same kind of thing; one sounds like a question and the other sounds like an order.  Like I said, it may be subtle but it’s there, and perception is everything.  When speaking with employees or with one of your customers for that matter, think about not only what you say, but how you are saying it, because your choice of words matters far more than you may think.

Deep down everyone would like to be treated with respect no matter what their situation in life is.  It doesn’t matter if they are janitor, a salesperson, a delivery person or the night watch person.  No one wants to be told what to do; given the choice (and even if they can’t actually refuse to do so), everyone would prefer to be asked to do something.    

So, the real question is, if you are able to accomplish the same end result without offending your employees, why wouldn’t you do it?  It’s a novel idea: Treat your employees the way you would want to be treated. At least give it a try; there is no downside.

And please, don’t get me wrong; I’m not telling you that you need to suck up to your employees.  If you did that you wouldn’t be leading at all. Instead, you’d be following their lead.  I just want you to realize that they are your employees, not your servants or subjects.  They can choose to work anywhere they want and they have chosen to work for you. 

So, if you want happy, productive, long-term employees, I would suggest that you start using W’s instead of C’s, and try to be more of a leader and less of a ruler.

It’s always gratifying to get your reaction when something I wrote struck a chord. So, if you have a question or comment (good or bad), please contact me at I’d love to hear from you.