Lessons for Leaders
Lesson #1 – Nothing Happens Until Somebody Steps up to Lead
Think about that. It is really the way things are. A lot of people have great ideas, can dream big plans, come up with fantastic ways to do marvelous things – but until someone steps up and leads – it is just theory and empty words. It really defines the saying that “vision without execution is hallucination.” Ideas without leadership are simply that – hallucination. You see it all around you every day – there are lots of people with ideas and very few who step up to do something about them. And sometimes we have that problem in our own company. We attend conference after conference and feverishly take notes to bring back and simply put them in a file or maybe even talk about them with our staff, but we don’t step up to lead and make sure they get done. Do you ever have that happen in your world?
We may go the next step and dump them on someone else’s plate to do for us. Often we give them some cryptic idea we jotted down and say “just do it” without investing the time to explain the “why” to them. That creates a bit of a dilemma for our people, because they didn’t hear the presentation we got the idea from so have no context. They are supposed to figure it out via some form of osmosis since we passed it to them. Leadership doesn’t dump and run on anyone. It means we have to clearly define the “why” and then lay out the how, what, when, where and who. If you simply drop it on their laps, there is no way they can succeed. That is a very good reason to bring a key leader with you to leadership events or group meetings – so they understand the context of the ideas and best practices before they are asked to execute them.
Lesson #2 – Leadership Doesn’t Stop When We Go Out the Door from the Office
For some strange reason we are able to lead effectively while we’re at work, but once we leave, we go on autopilot and stop providing that leadership. A leader does one thing continually – they lead. That skill is not tied to your desk at work. It is a gift that you have been wired with that needs to follow you in every interaction and relationship you have. I know all the excuses – too tired, just want to get away from dealing with people, somebody else should do it for a change, I need some space, and my calendar is too full and on it goes. But leadership does not stop at the door. In fact, there is always a need for leaders to lead.
The first place we should lead is at home. Life-work balance requires leadership. Things will take over our time and destroy our balance unless we lead. That is a fact you can see just by looking in the mirror. If you don’t prepare and plan – you will be overwhelmed by work and feel like you have no options other than spending 18 hours a day doing a job you can never finish. Your spouse and kids need a leader. Families disintegrate because leaders don’t lead. This isn’t about being the “boss” at home. Real leadership is about serving others. Real leaders put other people’s needs first. Your family needs you to be that kind of a leader. No one else is going to do it. If you don’t lead, nothing happens. So start at home.
The world is filled with committees and groups that waste tens of thousands or millions of man hours floundering around because leaders are content to just sit there and watch it happen. We think it would be too much to take responsibility to lead this group or that committee. After all, we’re worn out from our leadership at work. BS! We don’t lead because we get lazy. We aren’t willing to make a commitment to the mission of the project or group, but we are willing to waste our time being part of a non-functional team. But really, if you have time to be part of something, you need to step up and lead. Nothing happens until someone provides leadership.
Are you really a leader? Leadership is a full time gig. Not just 8-5 Monday through Friday. Leaders lead in life and community too. Don’t miss that very important lesson. There is no question that by being a leader 24/7/365 you will be part of a very elite club. Few do it that way, but it is the only way to truly be effective. People want to follow someone who leads all the time, not just when other people are watching. Don’t make the mistake of being a part time leader. It will only disappoint your followers, and soon you will look back and wonder where they all went!