I love the perspective and growth humility allows for, but damn if it’s easy.
We need to love ourselves, but not have a love affair with ourselves. Which is quite difficult because our natural bent is to have the love affair.
Love affair, you know, thinking about ourselves over all others, putting ourselves first over others, thinking our thoughts and ways are better and higher than others, taking care of our needs and wants over others, sacrificing others for our own benefit.
This doesn’t happen merely large scale, it happens in the everyday breath that we take as we work and as we live. It happens in our homes and amongst our friends. It’s a big, ugly, hairy beast that is seemingly always lurking in the shadows…even when there aren’t any shadows.
In a world and society that screams for and highlights the “boldest” and the “best”, we are failing to recognize that we are not making ourselves better than, but really less of. Sure, many will reach glory and fame. They will claim great accolades and accomplishments. But glory and fame fade. At times, fade quickly.
What is important, what truly matters, is what lasts. Regardless if it has a spotlight.
Humility. It’s noble. It’s right. It’s true. It’s intentional.
And it’s a challenge for each of us.
“Leader” is an oftentimes confusing description, or title, that someone has or is given because they hold a positional leadership role. It is confusing because leadership is defined differently by so many people and expectations of a leader are thus defined differently as well.
Let’s simplify it. Yes, there are plenty of descriptive adjectives that leaders need to have and competencies that seem to be ever increasing in our day and age, but regardless of the position, a leader’s responsibility basically boils down to three things: Inspire, Equip, and Transform.
Inspire: To be driven by purpose, having a vision that is bigger than themselves and being internally and passionately motivated with purpose toward that vision. To be values driven and intentional in the pursuit of that vision. It’s making decisions and driving results to make an impact on what you’re pursuing to make an impact in.
Inspiration isn’t about being charismatic, but rather it’s about a passionate pursuit that connects to the hearts and minds of others and draws them to be a part of the journey. That passionate pursuit has a charisma all of its own. And it moves people and progress.
In today’s life and world, finding people, let alone leaders, who inspire can be a difficult challenge. Life and work and responsibility and expectation hits so fast and furious that most are focused on taking care of self and taking care of their own. We miss others often. And we often miss the larger picture, and the deep and lasting purpose behind the life and work and responsibility and expectation. We are chasing the wrong things, or at least with the wrong motives, and it doesn’t connect or inspire others to align and passionately come on board. It doesn’t inspire others to live any differently forward.
Most people are looking for inspiration because they see so much around them that isn’t, and they truly want to be a part of something and aligned with someone with inspires.
Equip: In order to adequately and accurately equip others, you have to fundamentally know two things: (1) what is needed for the work at hand and the work ahead and (2) you have to know your people and understand them.
You have to be competent, and you have to build relationship. Equipping is developing, training, and providing for others, so they can be successful at who they are and what they are working to accomplish while aligning with the organization’s purpose and vision. For that equipping relationship to develop, you have to be seen as both trustworthy and having some measure of competence in what you are doing that others can and will receive what you know.
One of the greatest challenges to leaders equipping, is a cost vs. value mindset. What are we wasting vs. what are we investing? This is not a right vs. wrong scenario, but a both/and necessity. For many, the default is cost driven, bottom line focused decision making. And that’s a piece, but not the whole. Focusing on cost only without focusing on the value of will leave you less than the potential and possibility of, and will limit the fullness of those that are with, alongside, and for you as a leader.
Transform: Through inspiring and equipping others, leaders help to transform people, process, organizations, communities, and culture. Transformation is a direct impact from the leader, and it is multiplied when the leader empowers others to inspire, equip, and transform (be leaders themselves).
Transformation itself is an inside-out process. It doesn’t happen overnight and it never ends. It’s changing from what is to what could be. It’s more than merely going through the motions or having somebody doing something because they have to. It’s not window dressing and it’s not lipstick on a pig. It’s lasting change. It’s newness and new focus from the inside-out. It’s being on a different path and targeting a different type of destination.
The responsibility of leaders at any level is to Inspire, Equip, and Transform. It is a responsibility that needs to be defined and embraced by all levels of positional leadership within any organization, within any community. It is a responsibility that defines and distinguishes an organization from others and it will have the impact that they are striving every day for.
Leadership from top to bottom
Leadership isn’t just about the top of an organization, but we certainly need and expect it to be there. Leadership is much more about the whole. We, as people, need sound, life-giving leadership throughout our organizations, throughout our society— from top to bottom.
The larger an organization grows, the more diverse and mature its leadership needs to become. Understanding this principle, “everything rises and falls on leadership,” from John Maxwell’s book 5 Levels of Leadership is critical for any organization that has its eyes set on growth, stability and sustainability.
There really are no exceptions. The measures that an owner or executive team take to intentionally prioritize good leadership reflect their recognition of this principle. Leaders influence. Leaders impact. From the influence generated at the executive table, to the impact delivered on the shop floor. Leadership matters.
Culture and Directional Vision
Renowned writer, professor and management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” How true that is! It is critical for leaders to have directional vision, vision that is mapped out with strategic implementation steps. But leaders also need to understand that the culture created within any company, any team, will determine the success of attaining the vision and sustaining the organization or team at that level.
Everything that makes a company is wrapped up in its culture. Culture has shared values. In order for a company to run effectively, the people must share, uphold, and live out common values. Why? Because values drive behavior and action.
What we value reveals who we are, for our values reflect our character. It is a standard or ideal that regulates conduct or policy. Values define our attitudes, behavior and view of the world, and our culture manifests itself in the things we regard as most important. Whatever we prioritize both inside and outside of our walls reveals our culture. The way we think determines who we are.
Structure, Expectations, Accountability & Results
Leadership is always judged on results, regardless of the country, the community, the enterprise, the business, the sport, the team, the family or the relationship. Leadership matters. Good and effective leadership matters. How do you get to the results that are needed and expected of good leadership? Through a three-piece process of setting structure, creating expectations, and then holding people accountable.
It starts with structure. Defining roles, parameters, boundaries, lines of communication, lines of authority. Structure allows for creativity and innovation to be released. It lets people know what they can and cannot do, and allows them to excel at what they can do. Without clearly identified structure, you cannot create clear expectations.
Clear expectations set the mark or raise the bar on actions and behaviors. Defining these lets a person know what is expected from their role. Expectations set parameters for evaluation and get results. Standards are what gets a person into a particular role. Expectations are what drive them forward within that given role to perform at an ever increasing level until a measure is established in their zone of excellence.
Accountability. Without accountability, setting structure and creating expectations are exercises in futility. This is also where leadership is critical. Because accountability is hard. Most people do not like confrontation or hard conversations because it makes it difficult to navigate the relationship. It’s too uncomfortable. But so is working with substandard or wayward work and training habits.
The purpose behind structure, expectations and accountability is for organizational clarity, health, and sustained success. These, along with identified core values, define the culture of the organization and the probability of attaining the vision that is being pursued.
As an organization, there are always new and exciting waters to navigate. And there are no guarantees of success. How you define your business and your culture and the leaders you set in place and continue to elevate into the positional roles will define your success both internally and externally. Will you invest in your people and your business by providing more and more opportunities for leadership development and growth, or do you see it as a non-essential cost and holding no true value. The depth and quality of leadership throughout your organization is the key factor that will strengthen and bolster your organization for the successful drive forward into the future.