People Power - December 2011
By Scott Humphrey
Are the years flying by much faster? I spent my childhood and teen years wondering why time moved so slowly. I couldn’t wait to be an adult. I just knew that if I were making the decisions, life would be simpler, and the world would be a better place. Now, here I am at 48. Like many of you, I long for life to slow down. I find it difficult to believe that we are already in the holiday season. But here we are once again, facing the season of family gatherings, festive lights, giving...and getting.
Just the other day, I walked in to see my nine-year-old triplet daughters quietly sitting around the family room looking through catalogues. The silence was occasionally broken by one of my girls exclaiming that they had found something in the catalogue that they wanted. In essence, they were creating a wish list.
This created an excellent opportunity for daddy to discuss the real meaning of Christmas. I turned the activity around. I asked them to think of someone else as they looked through the catalogue, marking what they would like to give, instead of get. I was surprised. They enjoyed the thought of giving just as much as focusing on what they would get.
As is often the case in my life, real life experiences become leadership contemplations. I went to my room and began to consider what had just happened. I ultimately realized how permanently intertwined the acts of giving and getting really are. You see, in leadership, as in life, we always get back when we give. In fact, I would challenge you with this statement, “The more the giving stretches you, the greater the reward.”
With this in mind, knowing that what I give has a viral impact, I began to ask myself, “If money, time and ability were not obstacles, what would I give the readers of this article that would impact their lives and businesses positively in 2012?” Undoubtedly, leadership impacts all of us, so these are my gifts.
The Gift of True Leadership. Not the kind of leadership that is bound by the fear of what could happen, I would give the kind that takes life by the horns and lives to cause things to happen. I am not speaking of passive leadership, but the kind that cannot be satisfied unless it is making an impact. The kind that is lived, not simply read about in one of the thousands of self-help books available today. This is where I would draw the line between positional leaders (those who lead by title, position or last name only) and true leaders.
A true leader lives to make a difference. They know that their influence can serve as the catalyst to change attitudes, minds and ultimately lives. True leaders understand the importance of integrity. They are focused on internal consistency and ever mindful of the weight of the gift of leadership that they have been given. They understand that leaders are not self-appointed but instead are chosen by those who dare to follow them. True leaders learn from the past but refuse to live there. Their focus is on what is possible. They understand the value of their team and are quick to deflect praise to those who are truly responsible for their successes.
The Gift of People-Focused Leadership. No one person can fix the challenges that face our world today, but I can assure you that the solution can and will be found, not in technology, manufacturing, and increased productivity, but in the gift of wisdom bestowed upon those we share this world with. You may ask, “How do you identify a people-focused leader?” Here are a few traits you can look for.
Their questions let you know that they trust your wisdom and are honored by your input. Questions like, “What am I missing here?”, “How could we do it better?”, “How can I help you?” Not questions that start with, “Don’t you think” or “Wouldn’t you agree.”
They invest in the development of their people. Weak leaders magnify their weakness during a down economy by pulling back on training. At the very time that their people need to develop new skills to survive and thrive, they have settled into a hunker-down mentality.
They genuinely care about their employees’ professional and personal lives. They make sacrifices to allow their employees to maintain their work-life balance. They care with their actions, not simply their words.
They are confident yet humble. They never share another’s idea without giving rightful credit. They look for opportunities to praise their team and the individuals on that team. They deflect praise given to them by using the word “we” much more than the word “I.”
The Gift of Strong Leadership. To some, this may sound in contrast to what is written above, but I assure you, it is not. Strong leaders dare to demand the best from their people. They refuse to settle for mediocrity. They confront those in their workplace that spread their negative poison wherever they go. Let me be clear. You are doing no one a favor by carrying someone on your payroll that refuses to adopt your standards and lives within their rut of complacency and negativity. Here is a fair question to ask when determining whether someone’s behavior needs to be addressed: “If all of my employees had the attitude of ________, how would it impact my business?”
The Gift of Visionary Leadership. Visionary leaders see setbacks as speed bumps. They understand that challenges will occur, but their focus remains on where they are going. They share their vision verbally and often post their personal and professional goals for all to see. They measure their employees’ performance. They understand that their employees’ successes will help the corporation’s performance exceed expectations. In times of great turmoil, they see opportunities for differentiation and achievement. Visionary leaders refuse to stop when the going gets tough. They live by the words of Winston Churchill: “When you are going through hell, keep going!”
This list could go on, and it will in the coming year. But I want you to think for a moment about you. All of you are leaders in some aspect of your life. Whether in your community, place of employment, place of worship, or at home, you have the ability to give a gift that will impact for years to come. I want to challenge you to give to those around you the gift of true leadership in the coming year.
Furthermore, 2012 is a major election year in the United States. I challenge you to demand true leadership of those who ask for your vote. Don’t be swayed by the superficial qualities that so often make us like someone. I encourage you to dive deep and see how local and national candidates stand up against the qualities of leadership I have mentioned in this article.
Finally, I want you to know that I consider it a privilege to write this article on a regular basis. I thank you for the comments I receive. I hope that in some small way the information shared in “People Power” is influencing your actions positively at work, in your community, and at home. Please accept this article as my gift to you. I wish for you and yours a blessed holiday season and prosperous 2012.
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Copyright 2011 Floor Focus