Over the last hundred years or so, there have been many advances in our understanding of the theory of leadership. In many ways I believe when we moved into the industrial age around the 1900’s there was much that seemed to be forgotten from the thousands of years of leadership lessons in the family, on the farm, and in past civilizations that had to be re-learned. I don’t doubt that every one of these theorists had the best of intentions and was looking towards the success of the company, the individuals, and society as whole. However, these benefits were not always the outcome as the focus on the individual took many years to gain the popularity that it commands today.
The wisdom a leader receives fills them up like a bucket fills up with water. When the bucket is full (of water or wisdom), leaders have two choices; be a reservoir and stop filling to save what has been collected for themselves, or be a river and let it flow over the lip onto the ground to make room for more to flow in. When wisdom is allowed to flow, it acts like water by nourishing everyone it touches.
Nourishing leaders create flourishing teams.
Many leaders can be successful without passing on all they know – up to a point. Their teams will see the positive impact of a wise leader on their lives, and their work may be the best in the industry. But as odd as this will sound, that is not enough. Using wisdom to lead creates success while the wise leader is leading. What becomes of the team when the wisdom of the leader leaves with the leader – the team will fail.
The truly great leader wants to leave a legacy behind. What better legacy than passing on your wisdom to the next generation of leaders?
So leaders; be a river, not a reservoir. How are you investing your time to ensure your legacy of wisdom?
Successful leaders invest their time and energy learning all they can about their world so that they, and their teams, achieve their goals. This is what we all look for in our leaders; isn’t it? While we do look for knowledgeable and focused people to follow, there is one more trait that sets apart those who are passionately followed – EMOTION!
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato said, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” You see, knowing what you want (desire) and learning how to get it (knowledge) isn’t enough for us humans. How we feel about our walk in life (emotions) really matters.
Emotions aren’t something else you do; they are integral to everything you do.
No matter what happens in your life or career, you can never lose everything. You always have your integrity, dreams, and determination. With those virtues you will never be far from returning to success.
Last week I had the honor of gathering stories of a life dedicated to serving others. A great friend that I was blessed to work with for over eight years passed away. He had had a lasting impact on my life, and over the last week I have seen that his positive influence reached farther than I had ever imagined.
John Wesley said the purpose of life is to “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”
I reflected on this statement from Wesley while reading the stories about my friend. Each story was unique and came from a variety of people from high school friends, college friends, work friends, and family. But the message was always the same and I think the best epitaph anyone could receive: “Thank you for making a difference in my life.”
The takeaway for me was to rededicate myself to using every opportunity to add value to another person. That’s why we are here. Mohammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
I also realized that the service you do will mostly be small and passing events each day, and that is ok. Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
My friend was one of the happiest people I ever knew, and a life of service was his secret. Helen Keller said, “The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.”
The obstacles you will face as a leader are not physical impediments, but the responses of some of the people around you whose lives are being changed. If you pay attention you will see the obstacles coming and be able to take action to avoid running into them or being stopped by them.
Here are the 3 steps to successfully seek and find opportunity:
When I coach people who are beginning a new endeavor, new job, or new project I start with this quote from Lao Tzu on starting strong, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” I add to that thought a thought that we must persevere and finish strong.
“You’ll never get there if you don’t start; you’ll also never get there if you don’t finish.”- Denis McLaughlin
Starting something new is difficult and we may need encouragement to step out. Equally important though is the determination to persevere to a successful end. Zig Ziglar put it this way, “Where you start is not as important as where you finish.”
When we think of the word season it reminds us that throughout a year we cycle through spring, summer, fall and winter – seasons come and go. They are with us for brief periods then the next season appears. In the same way we only lead for brief cycles in our life.
In each season of leadership we are there for a reason. We are there to lead through a business need and in all cases we must teach the next generation to lead as we follow our seasons.
We all face storms in our personal and professional lives. There is no getting around it. The storms will come and the storms will go. The only control you have in these storms is how you will act; you get to choose what you will do with your time in the storm.
One more thing; it’s not just about you – your team is looking for you to lead them through the storm.
The best time to decide what your actions will be is when you are on the outside of the storm. I decided a long time ago that I would use every storm to learn and grow. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I welcome the storms. But since I can’t control when they appear, I do my best to treat them not as obstacles but as opportunities.
John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
With the weather we can be sure that after the rain comes the rainbow. When my children were young, we would all look up into the sky to see that beautiful colorful sight that we had seen so many times before. I admit that even today it gives us all a thrill.
During my personal storms, I do the same thing. I look for the successes that I have seen so many times before that I know will come again. I remember and remind my team that we not only survived past storms, but thrived and came out on the other side more prepared for the next one.
When you are in the middle of a storm remember, it isn’t a matter of if you will make it through – you will; you’ve done it before – it’s about what you will learn and how you will grow.