March 6, 2023
today’s communication essential: some of the most important aspects of leadership can’t be taught.
Ever have one of those moments where you say to yourself “I don’t remember them teaching us that in school…”
So do I.
This is especially true when it comes to leadership. I was talking about this with our executive vice president, April Wonsick. We agreed. There’s a lot they didn’t cover in school. Or in books. Or in podcasts. There’s just a lot you have to learn on your own. I told her I was going to blog about it.
So I did.
Here’s my initial ‘top five’ list but I do reserve the right to change/modify because a.) who knows what today holds and b.) I’m not done learning.
- It’s not about you. Never was. Never will be.
- Saying you’re a leader doesn’t make you one. Showing you’re a leader does.
- What you remember about people matters.
- “Lead by example” doesn’t work.
- Leader. Most popular. Well-liked. The favorite. These aren’t interchangeable.
Let me explain.
1. It’s not about you. Never was. Never will be. The sooner you learn this the better. Especially in a service business. There’s nothing for mom, dad, grandma, big sister, cousin Eddie or Uncle Billy to hang on the fridge or post on Facebook. The proof you’re doing your job? Your client looks really, really good.
The proof you’re doing a good job leading? Your team looks really, really good. That’s where your joy should come from.
2. Saying you’re a leader doesn’t make you one. Showing you’re a leader does. This isn’t the part where I tell you what I think you should do to demonstrate you’re a leader. That’s different for everyone. But whatever that is…do it to your fullest. Be consistent. Show up. Do what you’ll say you’ll. People will follow what you do, not what you say. No matter how many times you say you’re the leader.
3. What you remember about people matters. The entry that inspired this whole post – what you remember about people. Ever wonder the secret to learning people’s kids names? How about pets? Or their extended families, friends, home town, college, hobbies and more?
There isn’t a secret.
You need to invest your time into your people to get to know them, personally. You need to make the time to connect. Learning it is one thing. Remembering (and showing you care) is another.
4. “Lead by example”, doesn’t work. Bold statement? Nah. Just one that you learn over time. In fact, anyone who tells you ‘this is how I did it’ may not truly have your best interest at heart.
I like to take the opposite approach to this. Don’t follow my example. For two reasons: 1. I will tell you why what I did, DIDN’T work; 2. We have different experiences. For example, what I did, in the early 2000s, as I started my career, may look a lot different for you, starting your career in a pandemic world.
Find a leader, a mentor, advisor, whatever…who want you to lead by setting your own example.
5. Leader. Most popular. Well-liked. The favorite. These aren’t interchangeable. I saved the worst for last. Dirty secret of being a leader – and a good one at that – is everyone isn’t going to like you. Keep going. Please. Keep going. Don’t wait to be popular. Don’t wait to be everyone’s favorite. A leader has the burden of making choices that aren’t going to please everyone. I’m not exaggerating this point. Look down that leadership road…there isn’t a trophy for ‘most popular’ at the end of it.
Full circle? Revisit that first lesson. It’s not about you. Remember? I like to tell people to be a ‘reluctant leader’. The person who is leading because they have to – because it’s what people or the organization needs – not because they want to.
Leadership may be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have—if you are doing it for the right reasons. If ‘you’ are on the list of why you’re doing it…your road may be a little bumpier if you don’t learn that sooner than later. And I can speak from experience.
“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”
Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back