To Andy Griffith Show aficionados, Andy was a true leader. Barney? Well, not so much. Why? Barney thought his job was to enforce rules, that any infraction had to be punished, that only then could appropriate respect for the rules and for authority be engendered. These sound like good things. So why did Barney seem to get it so wrong?
Barney did not recognize that his job was not to serve the rules but rather to serve the principle behind the rules – to serve the policies that the rules were designed to promote. Andy got it. Andy understood that at times, relationships meant more than enforcement (think Otis). Andy also knew that at times, proper use of authority meant strict enforcement (think the bullies Barney had to face at the risk of being beaten up).
As professionals in the HR world, the lessons are apparent. We must be thoughtful and intentional to understand the policy behind the rules. Our actions should not be to serve the rules or “catch” people in an enforcement mindset. Rather, our actions should serve the underlying policies the rules are designed to promote. Sometimes that may mean strict enforcement to ensure efficient operations, but sometimes it may mean a more relaxed approach. When to invoke these different approaches requires the use of sound judgment; it means striving to be more like Andy and less like Barney.