Effective Leadership: Follow Me As I Follow My Leader

The last few weeks have been a challenge for me since I only have a short amount of time left at my current workplace.  It has been a challenge setting up my team to be in a position where they will be successful, but even more challenging has been the times of saying good bye to those people that I have worked with for six and half years.  While it has been a challenge, it has also been a blessing. It has been amazing how many people have communicated to me how I have influenced them in their leadership. I hope that I don't come across as egotistical, because I am not trying to, but I want to share with you my intrinsic joy that I have felt as dear friends and co-leaders have thanked me for inspiring them. This has allowed them to lead their people in new ways, and then (this is the awesome part) seeing their people lead the same way.

One example of this was a great friend of mine who told me that he observed me as I stopped my meeting during a time of conflict. I shared in the meeting that this type of communication was a positive thing and that it helps us come to better solutions, something I had learned from Patrick Lencioni's workbook, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I put it into practice and this friend witnessed it.  He saw the benefit in it and he used the same technique with his team and he saw the benefit himself.  You know who else saw those benefits?  His team members.  

This effective leadership concept seems so simple, but it takes a leader to lead by example and then for those leaders under him or her to be intentional about leading in the same manner in order to gain those benefits. This takes a leader with enough humility to know that they don't have all the answers, but also enough confidence to try something new with their team.     

It is one of the most gratifying things to a leader to see the person you inspired to not only listen to you, but then to act on your counsel, to see their face as they really understand, feel and see the benefit of doing what you told them. It is not gratifying in a prideful way, although it could be, but to me, it is seeing the smile on their face and the enjoyment in their eyes as they grew their leadership a bit more. They gain a bit more confidence knowing they are a good leader and that they have the ability to grow and do it better.  This is what I believe changes cultures, but these learnings and expectations have to be seen at the top to have the most significant impact.

Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.
— Charles F. Kettering

I sent an email to my father for Father's Day  and thanked him for his influence in my life. Even though he lives states away, he finds ways to reach out to me to show he cares, to support me and to continue to lead and coach me in life's decisions. That alone is amazing, but what is really sweet and warms my heart is the impact and influence it is having on my son and daughter.  I was woken up this morning at 6:35 am by my phone buzzing twice telling me that I had a text message waiting for me.  When I looked, it was my son texting me from Italy where he is on a trip with his Latin Club.  He shared with me how thankful he was for me, and that he missed me and wished I was there with him.  I also received a call later that morning from my daughter with similar words.  Those words from my kids warmed my heart like the sun just coming up after a hard night's rain here in Lake Geneva, WI.  I could not have a relationship with my son or daughter like this if it wasn't for my Dad's example.  

Leadership in the family is similar to an organization; each generation can serve as a level like leadership in an organization.  They say that if three generations of a family lead in a specific way, that the fourth generation will be almost guaranteed to lead in the same way.  I believe that to be translatable to an organization as well.  If an organization could have leaders truly leading their people three levels down then the likelihood for the fourth level to lead in the same manner would be almost guaranteed.  What does this sound like?  Yep, a organizational culture change.  

John Wooden, a great teacher, a national coach of the year six times and one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports, is a man that loves poetry.  One poem that I thought was really on point is:

No written word, no spoken plea
can teach our youth what they should be;
Nor all the books on the shelves.
Its what the teachers are themselves.
— Anonymous Author

He grew to love poetry from his father among many other things. What did he do with those words, actions and morals that he learned from his father? He lived them out and then passed them onto his players and students who in turn passed them onto those they lead, most of whom John Wooden would never know (including those reading these words or watching the video attached to this post).   He believed that those he led would benefit from them so he passed them on.  Listen to the video below as John Wooden shares some amazing things that his father taught him.  I think you will enjoy it.  

My challenge this week is for you lead by example through your actions and through your words, not to grow in pride of your accomplishments, but to watch as those you have influenced begin to lead in the same way and even pass it on to those that they lead.  It is an amazing feeling inside that inspires you to inspire more.  

In response to my Father's Day email that I sent to my father, he communicated back to me that it is only through returned words and lived out actions that a leader can know that they have made an impact, and he thanked me for letting him know my thoughts.  I wondered, Have I communicated my thanks to the many leaders who have influenced me significantly? I think I have to some but not enough, nor specific enough.  I think it is about time that I did something about that.  How about you?