Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true it made you stop the conversation, or at least pause for a moment, just to think about what had just been said? I had one of those exact experiences a few years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to it since.
Here is what happened: I was on the phone with a trusted friend and mentor that lives in Miami. We were discussing solutions to some challenges I was facing and that is when he said it. He spoke in a deliberate tone: “If you want to work with strong leaders then be one.”
I’ll never forget that moment. I was so grateful and at the same time I wanted to yell, “Ouch…that hurt!” Although I agreed with him the impact felt like I had hit a speed bump to quickly. The kind of speed bump that almost brings you to a stop while your car rolls up and over the “bump.” That one comment stopped me cold in my tracks. In that instance I had to slow down while I finished getting over that thought.
My friend was dead on accurate: Leaders are people who think of solutions and act. Leaders not only can identify a problem but feel the burden to bring a solution to the problem. Be the person in your family, office, or team that spends the necessary time to think through a problem long enough to think new thoughts about possible solutions. Expect the leaders around you to do the same. The fact is that whenever you live as a strong leader you find yourself in the company of other strong leaders. You will either attract them to you or you will be attracted to them. It’s probably both. Pretty cool deal for sure.
I have the privilege of working with a lot of strong leaders…and hopefully so do you. About six months ago at one of our staff meetings we went over some guiding principles, the kind that really resonate in the heart of those who want to lead well. If memory serves me, I think that lead pastor Justin Miller gave the list. The basic points are his, the commentary is mine. Anyway, here is the list. I hope that these thoughts are helpful and inspiring.
1. There is a clear difference between processes and people. A strong leader will fix systems and deal with individuals.
2. Planning and preparation are key to success in most anything. Sweat before or sweat during. The weekend is won or lost by Friday. In other words, before you get to an event or meeting you can feel confident when you have planned and prepared well.
3. Be people focused on the weekends. Regardless of the type of business, in the end it comes down to people business. I joke that ministry would be so fantastic if only we didn’t have to deal with people. Of course that would be true for most businesses. Of course what is also true is that if it weren’t for people, you would be out of business. My guess is that its as easy for electricians and pastors alike to forget that we are in the people business.
4. Take ownership for all we do. Take responsibility for being heard, don’t assume people know.
5. Back of house and team preparedness sets the tone for everyone. Remember that everyone in your organization matters. For one thing their attitude matters because it will come through in their interactions with those you serve. That is why it really matters for you to have conversations with everyone in your organization. Your people need to know what matters to you. Not just one speech to your team at Christmastime, but lots of conversations all of the time.
6. Follow up promptly, accurately and tactfully. In other words, keep your word…do what you said you’d do. The secrets to success aren’t secrets at all: Say thank you and please, smile, show up on time, and keep your word. Four easy things that anyone can do and there free! Does anyone remember the red Staples Easy button?
7. Spend time on the ground with your sleeves rolled up. Don’t depend solely on reports from those you lead. Get into their world and understand what it takes to get things done that you as a leader expect to have done. That is exactly what happens in the television show Undercover Boss. Awesome… Imagine that your boss, I mean the big dog in your company is working next to you. Would you work, act, or speak differently then you currently do?
That’s all: If you want to work with strong leaders, then be one.