Leadership is not for everyone!

John Maxwell wrote ““leadership has nothing to do with comfort and everything to do with progress.”  I think it’s also true that leadership takes on a lot of forms. Ideally, it should be earned and demonstrated over time – and *then* you get the title or role where you’re leading…based on your history & examples. Many times it seems people are in management roles and similar as a fluke. Well, nobody else was a fit so this person will/can do it. That just doesn’t seem to produce outcomes, create leaders, or foster positive team dynamics.

Last month I attended a conference and the keynote speaker said…”If nobody is following you, you’re just taking a walk.” referencing being a good leader. Leaders need followers. And if nobody really wants to follow you, that’s a bad sign. If you’ve been a part of a good leadership team, you know when you’re not part of a good one.

About ten years ago I was part of the New Bern Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Craven” program. I can’t remember every detail but it lasted about 10 months with a one day per month commitment where the group of 25 or so visited various places around the area. We learned about services, we gave tours of our current worksite and discussed various topics, and we connected with each other in meaningful ways. We did team building activities and we were all committed to the process, from start to finish. At the time I didn’t have kids but I was working two jobs – one involved a good amount of travel and the other was teaching early fitness classes at Gold’s Gym – so I had to juggle a fair amount but not a crazy amount.

I learned a lot in that class. The biggest thing I learned was how one of Maya Angelou’s quote really resonated with me – people will forget what you say but they will never forget how they make you feel. Even though I was in community health (and low man on the totem pole among these business minded peers) they all treated me equally. And now that I have the gift of hindsight many of them had young kids, they were business owners/CEO level,  and were probably juggling 100 personal things on top of work they still showed up to all the classes, they were on time, and they were respectful to everyone regardless of status in the group. Nobody’s schedule felt more of a priority than anyone else’s. Nobody was constantly given a free pass on not showing up or contributing. In fact, you could only miss one event – then you were booted. And we all knew this going into it. It had a significant price tag too! My take-away from that process showed me that it’s “normal” for people to commit, show up, and follow through.

Good intentions aren’t gonna’ cut it. I think great leaders know when they are in over their head and can ask for help. Great leaders don’t hide the stuff that isn’t going well; they uncover it and deal with it, and own what part is theirs. They also provide equity among their team/subordinates as it relates to work loads, deadlines, and accountability. Excellent leaders can see (and anticipate) patterns of behavior ahead of time and mitigate situations before they become situations.

Recently I’ve taken two online courses about Leadership and read a few books. It’s always eye opening to me in different ways to see things from a different perspective. Being a parent is also a great, real life, honest experiment in leadership. What you do and say is magnified by your kids – the good and the bad (especially the bad!!). And that’s not much different in the work place!

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