Golden Leadership

golden-leadershipWhat does one write in a leadership blog the day after one of the most contentious, divisive national elections in recent history? We need more leaders. I’m not talking about individuals who covet positions of leadership for the perceived power and prestige such roles might bring. I’m talking about people who feel compelled to step up to the plate, right where they are, to change a circumstance.

True leadership is not about a position. It is about having a purpose, and how you treat others on the way to fulfilling that purpose.

Which should be a source of encouragement, regardless of whether you are excited, anxious or in a bit of a stupor about the results of yesterday’s election. You can step up and take a leadership role, right now, right where you are, to work toward an improved circumstance. How?

For starters, listen. When was the last time you truly listened to someone who had a perspective different from your own — not with the goal of telling them why and how they are wrong, but to try to understand where they were coming from? You aren’t going to change someone’s perspective simply by shouting louder or questioning their intelligence, and you won’t make the best decisions by only listening to those who already agree with you. Granted, part of leadership is making decisions that won’t please everyone, however if you can allow those with a different perspective to feel heard, and treat them with respect, it is likely you will gain followers even if they don’t agree with every decision you make.

Secondly, be willing to question your thinking. No one is “right” all the time. And just because a decision might have been the best solution with one set of circumstances, when variables change sometimes the most appropriate response changes too. I’m not suggesting that you don’t hold true to your values and purpose. You absolutely should. However rigidity and an unwillingness to consider new information or to look for a “third way” doesn’t expand your influence or strengthen your position, it only makes it harder to accomplish your goal.

Finally, take the plank from your own eye before you go after the speck in someone else’s. Pointing fingers, being judgmental or condescending or patronizing lessens your own credibility more than that of those you are calling out. Again, that does not mean you should condone inappropriate actions or downplay your values, but somewhere along the way it seems we checked respect at the door. You can disagree with someone, or make the hard decisions, while still being respectful.

 Bottom line, the golden rule really is still golden. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you are less than enthusiastic about those seeking positions of leadership, be a role model of the kind of leader you want. On this “day after” my challenge to each of you is simply this . . .

Be a golden example.

Humble and Kind

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Tim McGraw has a new song out titled Humble and Kind. If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to do so. Simple lyrics, powerful message.

The message isn’t new. Gandhi challenged us to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Jim Collins writes about Level 5 Leaders who demonstrate personal humility and professional will. The Golden Rule drawn from scripture tells us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Kids get it. The rest of us … somehow we seem to convince ourselves that it can’t be that easy, that there are extenuating circumstances, that the world is complicated. All true. And yet …

Pick any news headline. How might the story have read differently if the players had decided to be humble and kind? Differences of opinion would not go away, but we just might be able to build on common ground and consider another perspective. Covey challenges us to make a habit of “seek first to understand.” Do we? Do we really want to hear the back story, or the rest of the story? Changing headlines seems overwhelming, and we’re already a bit overwhelmed. It’s hard to imagine how to even start.

Maybe you can start in your own organization. Are there ways and places to be a bit more humble and kind? It all starts with the tone set by the leader. I’m not suggesting that you lower your standards or don’t hold people accountable, in fact having clear expectations makes the path forward easier. Humble and kind is more about the how than the what. How do you hold people accountable? Do you support them or set them up to fail? Do you offer a measure of grace or are you judgmental and sarcastic? Do you build on people’s strengths or focus on their weaknesses. Do you shine a light on your team’s accomplishments, or claim the credit and pat yourself on the back?

Or maybe we need to bring it in a bit closer and ask if you as a leader, as a person, are humble and kind to yourself. That just might be the easiest, and hardest, place to start. Can you be humble enough to recognize that you are not a superhero, and probably the only one who expects you to be one is you? Can you ask for help and support when you need it? Can you be kind enough to yourself to take a break, catch your breath, and find joy in the moment . . . laugh with a friend . . . savor an ice cream cone . . . be amazed by the world around you? Do you think maybe, just maybe, something so small could cause a ripple that would reach all the way to the headlines?

You’ll never know until you try. Come on, give it a shot. Always be humble and kind.