The Need to Lead

Ever hear of the term “great world manager?” Me neither. The term we hear is “great world leader.” It seems that people almost instinctively understand that while a manager can steer the ship it takes a leader to set the course. It’s clear we have enough good managers, what we need is more leaders.

It’s Football season in the United States. The time of year when you hear football analysts describing the difference between an “ok” quarterback and an outstanding one. The “ok” quarterback is said to be a good “game manager” and the outstanding quarterback is described as an excellent “on-field leader.”

The difference is the “game manager” wins most of the games they are supposed to win and few of the games against the better teams. The “on-field leader” very rarely loses games they are supposed to win and frequently beats the better teams. One other notable difference, and this is my observation, the “on-field leader” also makes the players around them better.

I could write for hours about the difference between managing and leading. I’ll just say this, if you’re making your business better it’s likely managing, if you’re making your people better it’s most certainly leading.

Authentic Servant Leaders know something that other leaders, even effective Authentic Leaders often miss. They know that the fastest way to build their business is to build their people.

That’s why Authentic Servant Leaders spare no effort in developing their people. They don’t lead their people when they have the time, the lead their people ALL the time. People are their top priority. They recognize that every interaction with their people is a learning experience and that they can learn as much as their people.

Authentic Servant Leaders grow their organization by growing their people. People are their top priority in every situation. They will not sacrifice the long-term growth of their people for short-term profits. They know that they surest way to sustain their success is to work with their people, not on them.

Authentic Servant Leaders grow more leaders and those leaders grow the business. They make the people around them better. They help ordinary people achieve extraordinary results. They know that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people.

So where’s your focus? Are you focused only on the bottom line or are you focused on the people you need to help you grow it?

The Courage to Lead

You can find lots of articles on leadership that talk about the characteristics required to lead. I’ve written several myself. The two I most often write about are integrity and judgment. Asking which one is more important is a lot like asking which came first the chicken or the egg.

I personally think much of the poor judgment we see and hear about stems from a lack of integrity. People try to hide their lack of integrity and make very poor judgments in the attempt. Rather than be honest about a potential skill gap they try hiding it and once again, that attempt to deceive causes a ton of poor judgment.

Whatever leadership characteristic you think is most important I believe there is one characteristic that all effective leaders possess. That characteristic is courage.

Leading is hard. It’s hard because leadership is about people. You can manage stuff but people must be led. People, all people, are emotional. They have hopes, dreams, challenges, and worries.

If you’re leading them, truly leading, you’re dealing with your emotions, your dreams, your challenges, and your worries, PLUS theirs. That is not easy.

Sometimes conflicts will arise. Authentic Leaders have the courage to confront those conflicts head on. Authentic Servant Leaders have the courage to confront those conflicts head on with a healthy dose of compassion added in.

One of the most serious failings I see from people in leadership positions is lacking the courage to deal with conflicts or even potential conflicts. They will go to great lengths to ignore the situation. They will tell themselves that time will “fix” the problem. They will tell themselves and sometimes other people that “they aren’t baby sitters” and people just have to work these things out on their own. That’s NOT leading.

Making decisions is another area that often requires courageous leadership. When a person in a leadership decision lacks courage they often simply don’t make the decisions required of a leader. What they fail to realize is that not making a decision IS a decision and it’s very often a wrong decision.

Sometimes people in leadership positions lack the courage to say no. When asked for something they know isn’t possible they answer with a “we’ll see” or a “let me think about it.” They know that “no” will be an unpopular answer and they lack the courage to make unpopular decisions. That’s NOT leading either.

Some days leading requires a huge amount of courage. Some days not so much. But courage is a constant in all Authentic Leaders. Possessing the courage to lead is a leadership characteristic not considered often enough. But I’d put it in my top three most important characteristics for a leader.

What about you…do you believe a leader should possess courage?

Just Thinking

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Mostly about thinking. Very serendipitously I’ve seen several blog posts about thinking in the last few weeks too.

I think that thinking is good. I wish more people would try it. It really helps when making decisions and I particularly recommend taking a moment or two to think before you speak. It’s amazing what a difference that moment or two can make.

If you think as you look around (I don’t normally recommend multi-tasking but in this case I’ll make an exception) you’ll realize that pretty much everything you see began as a thought. Someone thought about making the device you’re reading this on. If someone printed it out for you to read that was very thoughtful of them. Everything begins with a thought.

So thinking is good. But is it always good? I think not!

Our thoughts lead the way for us. If our thoughts are positive our life tends to be positive. If our thoughts are negative our lives tend to be as well. Henry Ford once thought “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” That was a great thought but it only became great when he said it out loud.

You see as good as your thoughts might be thinking alone is not enough to succeed. Thoughts can begin the process of success but action finishes it.

Mountains of failure are built on the foundation of good thoughts, or as some people might call them, good intentions. But those good thoughts all have one thing in common…a lack of commitment to take proper action to bring them to fruition.

Every person reading this has had great thoughts that they never followed up on. Those great thoughts could have become something special if only….

If only they had been acted upon.

So keep thinking but don’t just think. Take action. Massive, directed, intentional, unstoppable daily action. It may lead to nothing. It may lead to learning what to do differently next time. But it may lead to something incredible that makes a difference for you, for those close to you or maybe the world.

What do you think about that?

Do Your Best

“Do your best.” I’ve received that advice so many times and for so long that I can’t remember when I first heard it or who I heard it from.

It’s not bad advice as far as it goes, it just doesn’t go far enough. If I were to advise you to “do your best” I would also advise you to have someone in your life to tell you if you’ve really done your best.

That’s because most people, myself included, often tell themselves they have put forth their best effort when they haven’t. They make compromises, they make excuses, they even flat-out lie to themselves.

If anyone is going to consistently do their best then they need someone in their life to hold them accountable. They need someone in their life to warn them away from compromises, excuses and telling themselves they did their best when they really could have done more.

That person is most likely a mentor. It could be a close friend, a family member, a co-worker or maybe even someone you pay, like a certified coach perhaps. Whoever it is you must trust that this person has your best interests in mind. They must be confident enough to be truthful with you and you must be confident enough to listen to them.

Sometimes your best effort won’t be good enough to accomplish what you want. Do your best anyway and do it again next time and the time after that too.

You deserve your best effort and you must be honest with yourself to get it. It also helps if you have someone close by to verify your honesty. When you do your best you may not always win but you will always be a winner.

You may find this hard to believe but in my experience the ultimate outcome matters less over time. The sting of defeat lessens over time but the disappointment in yourself for giving less than your best effort can actually grow with time. Don’t do that to yourself, always do your best and if that’s not good enough for someone else then that’s their problem, not yours.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

The great Dale Carnegie said that “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “horse sense” in today’s terms it would most closely be associated with “common sense.” Which of course isn’t actually all that common.

Dale Carnegie believed in the power of enthusiasm. He saw it in action during thousands of sessions of his Human Relations, Public Speaking, Sales and Leadership courses. I saw it in hundreds of those same courses. I see it all the time today as well.

People who are very enthusiastic about whatever it is they are doing simply do it better, in every way, than less enthusiastic people.

You, and every other human on the planet, can spot an enthusiastic person a mile away. You can also feel them, hear them, and maybe even be contaminated by them. You, and every other human on the planet can also spot an unenthusiastic person a mile away. And you most certainly can be contamination by them.

If you’re in a leadership position then it is vital to understand that you lead by example, whether you intend to or not. Your people are watching and they are watching to see if you do the same things you tell them to do. They are also watching to see if you do it enthusiastically.

Are you enthusiastically walking your talk. Merely going through the motions won’t get it done. As a leader you are the “model” for the actions you want from your people. But not only is it important “what” you do, it’s also very important “how” you do it.

You know that your more enthusiastic people are more productive and better team members. What you may not always realize is that they often model their enthusiasm level after yours.

Dale Carnegie also said to “act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” There will be days when your enthusiasm level isn’t what it needs to be. On those days follow Mr. Carnegie’s wise advice and act enthusiastic. Sooner or later your natural enthusiasm will take over and your “acting” will be replaced by the real thing.

Your enthusiasm is contagious, make sure you have enough so that everyone who comes near you catches a bit of yours.

Surprise, You’re Fired!

Being fired from a job is one of the most traumatic events a person can experience in life. It’s right up there with the death of a loved one or divorce.

When a person is fired from their job the usual thought process says it’s the person’s own responsibility. That is frequently true, more or less.

I say more or less because often there is another person who shares some of the responsibility for the failure of that employee. That person is their boss.

Now if you’re a boss with the mindset of a manager you’re saying that it’s never your fault. You’re saying that you hired an adult and that they are responsible for their performance. They needed to “step up” and get the job done. You say they should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more or “figured it out.” I can’t disagree with any of that.

But if you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader before you say anything about your employee you’re saying YOU should have “stepped up” and led them more effectively. You’re saying YOU should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more about them or figured out what it would have taken to motivate them to perform at a higher level.

If you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader you understand that there are really only two possible reasons your employee failed to perform. You either hired a person with the wrong skill set for the job or you failed to provide them with the tools and motivation they needed to succeed.

Either way, if you have the audacity to label yourself a leader then YOU must accept at least part of the responsibility for the failure of your employee. If it gets to the point of termination then it’s a gigantic failure. The person who was terminated faces tremendous trauma in their life and you as a leader played a part in making that happen.

If the person you terminated was surprised by the termination then the trauma is greater still. If you’re surprised that they were surprised then your failure is even more than gigantic.

Those “surprise” firings most often happen because a reality gap exists between what the boss wants and what the employee has convinced themselves they are delivering. That’s a reality gap and that gap can only be filled through coaching.

And here’s the thing, bosses with a managerial mindset seldom coach, they tell. Bosses with a leadership mindset seldom tell, they coach and they frequently coach by showing. Bosses with a leadership mindset have no need or time to boss, they are focused on leading. They are focused on developing those they lead. They celebrate the success of their people and share in the pain of any failure they may have.

They help create that success and avoid the pain with near constant communication. Most often that communication comes in the form of providing a model of successful behavior but sometimes they even use words.

Employees who are led instead of bossed are never in doubt as to what is expected of them. They are rarely fired but when they are they are never surprised.

Do your people know exactly what is expected of them? If not then you may be a boss but you’re most likely not a leader.

 

What Else Could Go Right?

I recommend to writers that they NOT begin a post or an article with a disclaimer. This is going to be another example of a post where I do not follow my own advice because this is a post that is going to, has to, begin with a disclaimer.

Because this is a post about maintaining a positive attitude. That’s something I struggle with. I know it’s importance but I too often allow my choice of a positive attitude to be overwhelmed by the circumstances I find myself in. That’s not good for me and it’s not good for the people around me.

I want to offer that disclaimer as a way of not appearing as a total fraud to those who know me best. The fact that I can’t always maintain control over my attitude is no reason not to try. The same goes for you. So here we go!

You’ve probably heard or said yourself, “what else could go wrong.” It’s most often said in a very dejected tone of voice when problems just continue to pile up. It sometimes seems as if everything that could could go wrong already has. That’s when we start looking for things that are wrong.

That makes it very difficult to choose a positive attitude. Yes, your attitude is your choice and no one and nothing can rob you of that choice. But here’s the thing, to maintain a positive attitude you MUST make that choice. If you don’t consciously make the choice of a positive attitude then the choice of a negative attitude will be made for you by whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

We do not subconsciously choose a positive attitude. That choice must be made consciously and it must be made frequently. Failure to make that choice leads to a negative attitude, whether you realize it or not.

Researchers say the average person has 40,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know how they can figure that out but here’s what really concerns me. They also say that of those 40,000 thoughts over 80% of them are negative. That’s a whole lot of negativity going on in our heads and it won’t be overcome without intentionally fighting to overcome it.

So how about this. How about when “things” start going bad instead of asking “what else could go wrong?” we start asking, “what else could go right?”

How about we start looking for the good. The good in a particular situation or the good in a particularly difficult person. No matter the circumstances something good is never that far away. You only have to make yourself look!

Now if that sounds all Pollyanna to some of you especially negative people reading this then I have a message for you.

You can easily find something wrong with very little effort. If you want to find something right it can take a little more effort but something right is there. And this much I can promise you from my personal experience… on the days you successfully choose a positive attitude everything and everyone around you seems, looks, acts and is in fact, better.

Every aspect of your life is affected by your attitude. Either you control it or it will control you. That’s a scary thought for some people but it’s a fact and it’s also a fact that the choice is yours.