It was a Thursday morning when I came into work late. I had a late night before. The baby wasn’t sleeping well, I had work on my mind, I was uneasy about trying to figure out how I was going to tackle the next project at the office. The long night caught up to me in the morning as I turned off the alarm clock and rolled back into bed. “I’m the boss, I can show up whenever I want” I told myself to convince my will power to just give up and let me sleep in.
Will power lost the battle and come 10:00 am, I was strolling into the office with my head hung low. The receptionist greeted me with the usual morning greeting, but I felt guilty as if she was judging me. After all, these were not the type of actions that define leaderhip. I was being a slacker and they all knew it. I walked to my office and felt the stares on my back as I passed by. They were all looking at me and thinking I was a horrible person. How dare I show up this late when they have to be here early. I sulked in my office and hid from the ridicule for a while. Then one of my team members entered my office to tell me about an imprompu meeting I had missed!
I quickly apologized for not being there. He quickly stopped me and to my surprise said the following; “It’s no big deal, you probably just had a long night. We know you care about us and the company. If you needed some extra sleep or had to run an errand or whatever, we don’t care. We’ll still follow you.”
I was floored! You mean, they weren’t judging me after all? It is at this moment that I learned how my team would really define leadership:
Responsibility: A great leader must take responsibility for his or her actions. Whatever the outcome, any and all ownership lies with the leader, and how he or she handles it defines how good a leader that person is. Your team will follow you because they have chosen to trust. Your willingness to bare this burden is how others define leadership. Success or failure, you own it all.
Respect: A leader must inspire the respect of those who follow. A leader who is respected may be confident that the team will follow, willingly. So earn their respect. Be honest and up front with them. Level with them on everything. Never, ever be manipulative. Go back and re-read Monday’s Quotes to see how important this is to how your team will define leaderhip.
Track record: It’s often been said that excellence is not an act, but a habit. Great leaders are not made overnight, but over long careers of winning hard-fought battles that others would not risk. Every excellent leader must be able to prove his ability based on past achievements in order to earn the trust of his people.
So what do we conclude from all of this? What is leadership? Leadership at its core is the art of being a responsible and respectable human being who has striven for years to achieve his goals and inspire other. Once people see these qualities shining through you, they will decide how they “define leadership”. To lead others effectively, one must first lead oneself without compromise. Once that is achieved, the rest will come.
How will your team define leadership? Are you setting the example?