I recently saw a semi-truck with a large arrow pointing towards the cab of the truck and this statement, “Our greatest asset sits 63 feet up here.” I have seen it before, but this time it struck me differently. I thought, Does the culture of that company support this statement or is it no more than a marketing slogan?
Companies want to be “on top”, “cutting edge”, “innovative”. The question is: Does the culture support the cutting edge marketing? It’s great to have a catchphrase or some values on the wall, however, it is not easy to lead a group of people every day, month, and year after year. It’s not easy to lead the pack and in fact I am going to say DON’T lead the pack.
Lead yourself first. Any great business coach will tell you to know your team, but do you know yourself, who you are, and why you do what you do? If you don’t start with you, then you can’t lead anyone else—The leader of a group, company, or team must start with themselves.
To begin leading yourself, think about these four items:
Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind?” She replied, “The only thing worse than being blind is to have sight without vision.” What’s your vision for your life?
As Simon Sinek made famous in the book Start with Why, each organization must discover their why before their how. It is critical for business leaders to have their own personal why: why they get up every morning, why they go to work, why they love, hate, feel, do, act, or be. This is your personal vision or mission statement for your life.
I suggest writing out each one of your why statements. Sit with them and ponder it. Put it up where you will see it each day and let it dictate what you do and who you become. Here are a few examples: I believe everyone has purpose, or I exist to give others opportunities, and I live to give and influence others for good. Spend some time with these. Share them with a friend, colleague, or loved one. You will also need to think in the quiet, which rolls to the next point…solitude.
Julie Funt and her team at WhiteSpace encourage a workflow of transitions and calm. Julie encourages her clients to schedule "whitespace"—time for reflection. I have not met anyone who doesn’t have plenty to do at work, at home, with friends, church, and kids, so there's no way to stop and experience this whitespace without scheduling it.
The Great Game highlights this need in High-Involvement Planning™. Business leaders must stop to see where the business climate is and what the competition is doing, or simply to regroup for a new opportunity.
If you and I are too busy, then we’re no good to anyone. Let’s make our pace sustainable—get away, turn off the distractions, and pause for a moment. Be quick to rest, to make space, and to give your best in service to others. That’s the next point… service.
Every week I attend a local Rotary Club where the slogan “Service above Self” is lifted as an ideal. I ask myself, Am I living for others? How have I served over serving my own wants? When Paul Harris and the other professional businessmen started Rotary, their vision was to use their power, influence, and wealth to serve those around them.
Their ideals have stood the test of time because their why statement allowed them to share and serve for the greatest good. Paul knew he would have more success and lasting relationships if those around him grew and developed. We know the adage, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Are you willing to put someone else's needs above your own? Will you serve those on your team, in your company, or family? Service to others only happens when leaders are willing to put others first. Are you humble enough to serve?
Nothing is more of a turn-off than pride and ego. Listening to people go on and on about how “amazing” they are is exhausting. The need for humility is clear. It may even need to happen prior to a willingness to serve.
Humility allows leaders to see the value others can bring on your team. It allows employees, clients, and partners to become “owners”. Humility is a core theme of the Great Game.Jack Stack understood he could not make every re-manufactured part to save the business. Jack’s culture is clear and he still sees everyone as part of the team—you are just as important as me.
Jack developed the Great Game to highlight the need for every member to play their part well. Jack even humbly gave away equity ownership to everyone willing to show up, work hard, and allowed everyone to win!
Humble leaders share in the wins and take the losses on their chin. Humble leaders don’t recruit talent; talent finds them. People ask “How do I get on that leader’s team?” and “How can I help?”
Now it’s time to go to work. It may be too overwhelming to try to do everything, so take just one from the list and plug it in tomorrow. Do it for a week, a month, for it for the rest of your life.
Lead well. You are talented. Give of yourself to impact those in your team, family, and company.
Lead with Vision. Get alone to reflect Why. Put others first to serve. And humbly lead those around you! Believe in yourself… I do.
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