True Leaders Lead Everyone

Most often we tend to think of the term leading as someone “higher up” in an organization leading people at a lower level of the organization. 

 

Too often we would be right.

 

True leadership is multi-directional. True leaders lead down, across, and sometimes up. True leaders even lead themselves at times. Because they know that a title or position doesn’t make them a leader they know that they can lead in every direction.

 

Leadership, at it’s core is influence. If you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. It doesn’t mean you will be a good leader, it doesn’t mean you will lead with noble intentions, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful as a leader. It’s simply means your influence will at least partially shape someone else’s thoughts or actions. 

 

If you’re only leading down it is quite possible that you are counting on your title or position to influence others. Titles and positions may buy you some time to demonstrate your level of influence but sooner or later, most often sooner, you will have to realize that’s it you, your experience, your integrity, your “brand” which will allow you to influence others long-term.

 

If you’re only leading down in your organization, it’s quite possible you’re not really leading at all. If you only have “influence” downwards in your organization then it may not be real influence. It may be fear or intimidation that causes your people to follow your wishes and you should be aware that following your wishes or “orders” and actually following you as a leader are two very different things. 

 

On the other hand, when leading across your organization, that is to lead others at your same level, you likely have very little other than your influence to shape their thoughts or actions. To lead up in your organization, that is to lead those at higher levels than your own, you have nothing but your influence to impact their thoughts and actions. 

 

But true leaders most definitely lead in every direction. They don’t count on titles or positions. They demonstrate solid, consistent leadership characteristics that earn them a high degree of influence. 

 

If you find yourself consistently impacting the behavior of those below you in your organization but never above you then that may be an indication that your leadership is limited to one direction. 

 

To lead in every direction, to lead everyone, forget about levels. Forget about titles and ignore positions. Do what is right, say what you mean, exert honest and professional influence with integrity to everyone around you. Some of those may be lower than you in the organization, some may be above you. 


None of that really matters because you’ll be making a difference in the right direction, no matter which direction it is. 


30 Seconds to Success

I’ve known many a procrastinator through the years (myself included) but I’ve known few people who were procrastinators by choice. They were all mostly procrastinators by chance.

 

Most procrastinators have more to do than they know how. They almost get paralyzed trying to figure out where to begin and the result is often that they just don’t…begin that is. They just don’t begin. They don’t get much finished because they don’t get much started. 

 

This much is certain, you will never finish what you never begin. 

 

So the first step to overcoming procrastination is to simply begin. But the question remains; where to begin.

 

Here is one piece of advice I received years ago that has really helped me overcome my procrastination tendencies: If you have something to do, anything to do, and it takes 30 seconds or less to do it then do it now, RIGHT NOW.

 

Now the best procrastinators out there will tell you that you can’t get anything done in 30 seconds or less. They would be wrong about that. 

 

30 seconds is actually quite a long time. 

 

In 30 seconds you can make a prioritized task list of the things you must accomplish today in order to be productive. Then you’ll know exactly where to begin.

 

In 30 seconds you can answer an email. If you don’t believe that then time yourself when answering a few. You’ll find that most, the vast majority in fact, take less than 30 seconds. Most people read the same email several times before finally answering it. That’s called procrastination and it’s a waste of time.

 

In 30 seconds you can delete about 60 emails from last year that you never did get around to answering. 

 

You can respond to several text messages or send one to someone, like mom or dad, that you’ve been meaning to send for a while. 

 

In 30 seconds you can set a meaningful goal. 

 

In 30 seconds you can pay a bill online.

 

In 30 seconds you can say thank you to someone you’ve intended to thank for days.

 

In 30 seconds you could pay someone a sincere compliment. 

 

In 30 seconds you could make a decision that changes your entire life.

 

You can do a lot in 30 seconds if you choose to be productive instead of busy and overwhelmed. 

 

It should take you substantially less than 30 seconds to decide which one will lead you towards greater success.


Submarine Your Stress!

Most people have at least heard the phase “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s not just a saying, it’s actually the title of one of the greatest books ever written. It was written in 1936 by the legendary Dale Carnegie. It has been a best seller forever, translated into more languages than virtually any other book. 

It is truly a life changing book, to this very day. 

But many people who know Dale Carnegie’s work well would tell you it’s not his most impactful book. They would say it’s the book Carnegie people call “the worry book.” It’s official title is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” 

It is truly a masterpiece of tactical insights into how to control worry in your life. 

The insight, or principle as Mr. Carnegie called them, that has made the biggest difference for me is the very first one discussed in the book. 

The principle says that to avoid worry we should “live in day-tight compartments.”

A submarine is divided into compartments so that when a problem develops in one compartment the other compartments can be sealed off from the trouble. Dale Carnegie suggested that we live our lives as a submarine is constructed. 

Live each day as a separate compartment. Don’t let yesterday’s troubles seep into today and never let tomorrow’s potential worries (which often never happen anyway) leak into today’s opportunity for success.

As simple and as easy as that sounds it is anything but. It requires a steely discipline and faith that today’s good can drown out yesterday’s not-so-good. 

Here’s one thing I’ve found that helps me to live in day-tight compartments. I don’t just compartmentalize my days, I put many things into their own compartments. 

I work hard to keep my work life separate from my family life. As bad as it is to let one bad work interaction negatively affect the next work interaction it’s absolutely terrible, tragic really, to let something bad that happened at work have a negative impact on my family. 

There is never a good reason to “take out” my work frustrations on the people who are far more important to me than anything to do with my job. By compartmentalizing those two areas of my life that’s much less likely to happen. 

I once had a participant in a Dale Carnegie Class tell the class that he passed over a long bridge on his way to and from work each day. He said that at the end of each work day he packed up all his worries and put them in a box. On his way home as he crossed the bridge he rolled down his window and tossed the box out the window and into the river he was crossing over. The problems and the worry they caused never came home with him. 

He went on to say that sometimes the box would be waiting for him on the bridge when he was returning to work but that was okay, he was back at work and that’s where his work worries belonged. 

If you want to attempt living in day-tight compartments then you need to find your own metaphorical bridge. Maybe you’ll need several of them, that’s perfectly okay.

This much I can tell you; developing the discipline of living in day-tight compartments will do more to relieve stress in your life than anything else you can do. There is enough stress for most of us in a single day, we don’t need to be dragging stress from yesterday or tomorrow into today. Most of us can deal with the weight of stress from one day, it’s when the days start to pile on that we have real trouble.

Live in day-tight compartments and the worries of life will find it very hard to gang up on you! 

By the way….read the book.

Who Cares?

I’ll often catch myself saying or thinking that I don’t care what other people think of me. I hear other people say that from time-to-time too, they couldn’t care less what people think of them. I’m not sure why they say it but I think I say it as a way of “protecting” myself from people who just don’t like me. 

The truth, for me and virtually every human that ever lived, is that given the choice we would much prefer to be liked by everyone. So in truth I really do care. 

But this is also true: I care more about other things than I care about being liked. You should too! I may have a want to be liked but I have a need to do what I believe is right. Even when it causes other people to not like me.

If you’re trading your integrity to be “liked” then you’ve made yourself one horrible trade. If you’re willing to sacrifice your principles and core values to be accepted as part of the “crowd” then you’ve paid way too high a price for acceptance. 

There will always be people who you don’t click with. There will (sadly) be people who are so different from you that you just won’t find enough in common to be considered friends. But you will click with the people who you need in your life. They will accept you as you are. If they are meant to have influence on your life then their influence will change you for the better, not the worse. 

Remember those “friends” who your parents said were a bad influence on you? Your parents were probably right, you just couldn’t see it at the time. If you changed your behavior solely for the purpose of being liked more by those friends then your parents were almost certainly right.

Don’t change who you are simply to be liked. 

Not everyone is going to like you, that’s just how it is. Nobody is liked by everybody. It is far far more important that you like yourself, that you respect yourself, than it is that any other person likes or respects you.

It’s just not a healthy choice to value the opinions of people who don’t truly value you. Just be you. You are more than good enough for the good people to whom you actually matter. Those are the people who truly care about you. Those are the people who will like you for who you are, not for what they want you to be.

What Makes a Leader

Calling yourself a leader does not make you a leader. Holding a position of leadership in your organization does not make you a leader. Having an important sounding title does not make you a leader. Having someone else describe you as a leader does not make you a leader.

Your promotion to a leadership position does not make you a leader, in fact the managerial skills that likely earned you the promotion are very likely holding you back as a leader.

If you’re trying to manage your people then you will always have people problems. Human beings do not respond to being managed. Actually leading your people will permanently eliminate most of the “people problems” managers face everyday. 

So, here are a handful of traits that contribute to being a leader:

Risking your success being hidden inside the success of someone else makes you a leader. 

Caring as much about the advancement of those around you as you care about your own advancement makes you a leader.

Tackling the assignments no one else will tackle makes you a leader. 

Investing your time where it’s needed rather than where you want to makes you a leader. 

Making right decisions that most people simply won’t makes you a leader.

Finding common ground where only mud previously existed makes you a leader.

Seeing the potential within every person you meet makes you a leader. 

Doing what’s right when everyone around you believes it’s wrong makes you a leader.

Working to build more leaders rather than more followers makes you a leader.

Understanding that your own success is dependent upon the success of your people makes you a leader.

Having the courage to let the best idea win, whether it’s yours or someone else’s makes you a leader.

Understanding that constant collaborative communication with your people will help them succeed makes you a leader.

A willingness to be held accountable, by anyone and everyone makes you a leader.

Being completely honest with yourself makes you a leader.

These are some of the traits that make a leader. To be sure there are more. Few leaders possess every recognized leadership characteristic but they possess more than people who do not lead.

The right to truly lead must be earned. It can’t be earned through what you say, it is earned through what you do. Leader “wannabes” tend to talk leadership, Authentic Leaders tend to do leadership. 

Are you just talking or are you doing? 

Are You Really Leading?

I’m kind of afraid that “leadership” has become something of a buzzword. The actual definition of buzzword is “a word or phrase, often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.” 

If we buy that definition then “leadership” has actually been a buzzword for quite some time. I’m not sure when it changed from a meaningful word to a buzzword but my guess would be that it happened slowly over time, so slowly that many of us were slow to realize it happened. 

People, including me, have written exhaustively about the difference between managing and leading and yet most people who use the word “leader” when describing themselves still operate more as a manager than a leader. They know enough about leadership to use the buzzwords but when you watch them in action the buzz soon disappears and all your left with is words. 

One area, one critical area, where many of these would be leaders fall short is in developing and sharing their vision.

They effectively develop good strategies and operational plans (management activities) while glossing over or completely ignoring the vision. (Vision-casting is a key component of effective leadership) 

Authentic leaders understand the importance of goals and having everyone in their organization working towards those goals. A vision describes those goals in some detail and also explains how the strategies, tactics and operational plans of the organization ensure those goals are achieved. 

The best leaders endlessly clarify the vision and goals of their organization and explain how even small goals can serve to help ensure the larger goals are achieved. That process helps everyone within the organization understand their own role in helping the vision become reality. 

Here’s the thing; if you’re in a leadership role and you have no vision for the organization then where exactly are you leading your people? If you have a vision and you have not effectively shared it with the people you lead then why would they follow you? People have a need to know where they are going and what will be waiting for them when they arrive. Without that very basic information they are unlikely to actually follow.

Leadership is not just a word, it is an action, more precisely a set of actions. One of the actions is developing and sharing a common vision that comes from common goals. 

If you want to actually practice leadership rather than just talk leadership then share your goals and vision early and often. Repeat it again and again, make it a part of everyday life in your organization. 

People react to management but they respond to leadership, when it’s truly leadership. Reactive people will seldom help a manager achieve organizational goals but responsive people very often engage with their leader to accomplish great things. 

Share your vision and your people will respond. Once that happens anything and everything is possible.

The Power of an Idea

Linus Pauling said that the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. I think I agree with that …. mostly. I say mostly because I’m not sure an idea can be considered good until somebody does something with it. 

Lots of people have good ideas, and lots of those people never do anything with them. 

One challenge with having an idea is that it takes courage to share it. The bigger the idea the more courage it takes.

Which brings us to Craig McCaw. Mr. McCaw is an idea man. I don’t know this for sure but I’d bet he has had lots of ideas, some good, some not so good. But one idea he had that turned out to be something of a success was the wild idea of a cellular phone. 

As a pioneer of the cellular industry and the founder of McCaw Cellular, now part of AT&T, he envisioned a time when a person would have one phone number that followed them wherever they went. That was a crazy idea, a big idea and an idea he had the courage to share. 

It was also an idea that worked. Today your cellular phone will work around the world, same number, following you wherever you go. 

One reason it worked, maybe the biggest reason, is that he had the courage to give voice to his ideas. He was willing to risk looking silly, or stupid, or even crazy to share his ideas and see what would come from them. 

Many of the things we take for granted today were once just an idea. Many, if not most of those ideas might even have been considered impossible and if no one had the courage to share their idea they would have stayed impossible.

Giving voice to your ideas is the first step to success. 

So take a chance. Share your idea, tell somebody. Yes, you need to protect your idea from those who would steal it but don’t let that keep you from taking your idea from it’s hiding place and showing it off a bit.

Just having an idea might make it a good idea but letting it loose just might make it a great one. Ideas only truly become powerful when they are shared. 

So…what’s your big idea?