It’s not too late to lead

The more I watch our governmental leaders operate, the more concerned I get regarding the lack of true leadership in this country. I see two political parties that are more concerned with the downfall of the other than what’s in the best interest of the country. I see factions even within those groups that are fully absorbed in “one cause” focus rather than working towards what’s best in the overall interest of those they lead. I see people elected to a position to lead and improve things for those they lead getting distracted from the task at hand resulting in nothing getting done. I would bet the Russian president pops a bottle of champagne every night over this Russian investigation taking up all the time and attention in the US. Whether that was his intended consequence or not, he was successful in totally stifling the executive and legislative branches in our government from focusing on health care improvement, tax reform improvement, national defense enhancement, economic growth, etc. Notice, I am not taking political sides here, just concerned with the entire group as a whole.

When one probes down to the root cause of this apparent lack of effective leadership at various levels (just a thought when nothing seems to be getting done), I am not so sure the issues there are that different from the issues we face leading our people on a daily basis.

Someone asked me recently about my thoughts on leadership. Let’s take a look at those, and I think we can better evaluate the issue at hand, both nationally as well as those closer to home (us).

1. Leaders have to care about something other than themselves.

a.They have a genuine care for the people they lead and seek to make decisions that are in the collective best interest of those they lead. Notice the decisions are in the “collective best interest” of those they lead; not the best interest of the leader, not the individual interest of a segment, not the most popular interest, but the “collective best interest”.

b.They may have a genuine care for the mission or purpose of the entity/organization they lead. Maybe the cause itself drives them to lead well. They really have a passion to see the organization achieve what they are designed to do. One would sure hope those leading our military have this trait! You see it in athletics all the time. The desire to “win”.

c.You really get something special when the leader has both a and b.

2. Leaders take responsibility for everything, yet hold everyone accountable.

a.There’s no blaming others. There’s no “that’s not my job”. There’s no “that’s not on me”. If you are the leader, you own the actions and performance of those you lead as well as your own.

b.While the leader “owns it”, leaders demand others to do their part and perform at an acceptable level. Allowing people to bring the group/organization down by not contributing is just pure negligence on the leader’s part.

3.Leaders bring out the best in others.

a.Leadership is not about how skilled the leader is. Leadership is about harnessing the skills of many to surpass what one can do alone. If you know a lot as a leader, that’s good. If you can take that knowledge, pass it on to others, take what others know, and put all that together and achieve more than was possible individually, now that’s great!

b.Leadership implies that there are followers that need to be influenced. If that was not the case, we would not need leaders.

c.Leaders recognize there are differences in thoughts, beliefs, and convictions, but they find common ground and build up from there. They stay focused on the non-compromisable targets that we all have to agree on and don’t get bogged down by things that aren’t essential.

d.Leaders don’t get distracted by the “vocal” few, but focus on getting the best out of the majority. Every group has those “vocal few” that constantly want to cause problems. Successful leaders minimize the impact of these and focus on the group and get the best from them. These “few” will ultimately be isolated, non- influential, and will likely leave or conform at some point.

4.Leaders engage others.

a.Leaders don’t have to possess all the answers, but they do have to be willing to ask the right questions of others.

b.Engagement is valuing what others think, not just what they do. Engagement is taking the input from those closest to the work/need and making an informed decision. Engagement is building a team of partners through information sharing, listening, and working as one regardless of position level.

c.Engagement is always thinking team first; not protecting self- interest.

5.Leaders can’t be wimps.

a.Leadership roles are no place to coast. Leaders can’t be passive. Leaders can’t ignore tough issues. Leaders step forward when the challenges arise.

b.There is nothing more rewarding than impacting the life of others. You can’t have an impact unless you get involved. You can’t have an impact unless you take some risk, get involved, and seek to make a difference.

If each of us were to take a self-assessment on the items above, I wonder what we would discover about ourselves and if it would impact what we do every day. We can sit around and complain or we can start making a difference where we are today. You never know what a few people committing to leading more effectively can do. You might just change your work area, your facility, or even inspire someone to change something even bigger.

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