It is likely that you have been positively affected by someone who has inspired you to accomplish what was thought to be impossible.
The ability to inspire others is the foundation of leadership. I’m sure you can recite any number of examples of great coaches, politicians, military, businessmen and probably a number of golf course superintendents who have exhibited leadership in achieving greatness. Some of these people might have had a positive impact on you.
Somewhere along the way I became a leadership junkie – not necessarily someone who had to be in charge, but one who was interested in how people were able to bring out the best in others. These people were generally successful, balanced in their lives, liked by many and had a positive disposition. Why wouldn’t I want to know more about people who exhibited these tendencies?
I suspect my interest in leadership was sparked in my youth as I was participating in sports. I have continued to make it a priority to interact with individuals who exhibit outstanding leadership skills. It is my hope that with each touch I gain insight that will improve my life in some manner. After all, we never quit learning.
Just over a year ago, I met the city manager of the community in which I work. From the moment I met him it was easy to see why he had the respect of others. For starters, his tenure of 17 years is more than four times the national average for city managers. He must be doing something right. His staff speaks effusively about him. I could not find a city staffer who said a bad word about him. Naturally, I had to know what went into his secret sauce.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to sit in on a leadership presentation where he shared thoughts on the subject. Here is what he had to say:
1. It starts on the inside. Leaders are people of high character who set an example for others to follow. They don’t expect more from others than they do of themselves. Their foundation is strong and unwavering.
2. Somebody loves me and needs me. For the long term, leaders do not let work define them. They have balance in their lives. Family is priority No. 1.
3. If you don’t love it, who will? Leaders have passion for their work and dedicate themselves to help others achieve their goals. Followers must see that passion in their leaders before they are willing to follow.
4. It’s OK to dream about Camelot. Leaders must have an eye toward the future. And it’s OK if the futuristic view has a tinge of perfection in it. It keeps us striving for more and from settling, or worse, becoming obsolete.
5. You can make your own copies. Leaders have humility. They know success is not solely dependent on them. They are no better than anyone else on the team. Everyone should be expected to roll up their sleeves and work.
6.They have a life, too! Work should not be your top priority and you should not expect it to be so for your team. It is easy to burn out co-workers. Not only does this affect productivity, but you eventually drive them away and develop a reputation that will make it difficult to attract people.
7. There is an inner circle. Organizations succeed and sustain themselves because they identify and train future leaders. Rather than wait to see who stays the longest in order to delegate duties, leaders keep a keen eye on those who have the makeup to assume such responsibilities.
8. Make sure you have your clothes on. Leaders who surround themselves solely with “yes” men are doomed because decisions are not questioned. Have you built an organization that embraces healthy disagreement with no fear of retribution?
9. I don’t know everything. Learning never stops. Change is a constant and a leader embraces that concept.
10. Humor is a value. What is our defense mechanism to stress? Whether or not humor is considered a “true” organizational value, leaders must exhibit a sense of humor to foster an environment that eliminates excessive stress and promotes positivity.
These are not the definitive “Ten Commandments of Leadership.” However, if any provide inspiration, then I have accomplished at least part of my goal. But equally important I implore you to expose yourself to leaders whenever you have the opportunity. They might just provide the best lessons you have learned in life.