Leaders speak up, step forward and stand out: People Power - Feb 2017

By Sam Allman

People power implies leadership. Power with, for, over and through people implies some sort of capacity for leadership. Following a leader is a choice, not a mandate. We have bosses, managers, parents and even a president, all of whom have power over us, but we still have the choice as to whether or not to follow them. 

If we choose to follow someone because we are coerced or rewarded, we are not following them because of their people power, we are following them because of a consequence we want or don’t want. That’s not leadership; that’s management. Using the stick or the carrot to get the donkey to move is management. Rewarding or punishing is a tool of management, not leadership.

That’s why my favorite definition of a leader is “someone with followers.” Therefore, if there are no followers, there is no leader. People with “people power” influence others to follow, knowingly or unknowingly, through honor. People volunteer to follow these leaders because of the kinds of people they are. “You will never be more effective as a leader than you are as a person,” said author Blaine Lee. I have written at length in previous columns about what may be required to be honored, i.e., honesty, integrity, competence, loyalty, empathy, charisma, kindness and making a difference. 

In this edition of Floor Focus, we honor some of the young emerging leaders of this industry. Deep down, whether we will admit it or not, we all have a need to be recognized for at least something; we would like our “15 minutes of fame.” Over my life, from time to time, I have been recognized. That recognition makes me happy and fulfills my need for purpose, to matter. I would love being recognized as one of the young honorable emerging leaders of this industry, but that ship has already sailed; I have run out of time. 

In any endeavor, if you want to be recognized, you must be noticed. Today, in order to maintain and grow the self-esteem of our children, we reward them for “showing up” or for participating. Woody Allen once said, “Showing up is 85% of success.” He may be right, but showing up rarely gets you noticed. I believe some of the tragic events we have had in the workplace and in our schools are the result of the desire to be noticed. Showing up or participating doesn’t fulfill that need. People with people power-whether being noticed was the motivating factor or not-speak up, step forward and stand out. 

Gordon B. Hinckley wrote one of my favorite books, Stand for Something. Think about it, the people you and I honor “speak up or step forward for something.” One of my heroes in my life is my father. He’s almost 94 years old and struggles to live. Throughout his life, he has spoken out for honesty, integrity and work. Until recently, through the age of 93, he went to work at his retail flooring store every day. He grew up during the Great Depression. He has been an example of the power of work and honesty. His favorite saying was “Cut your hair; get a job.” I honor my father because of the kind of person he was and what he stood for. He spoke up and stepped forward.

I honor Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi because they spoke out against injustice and for equality. I love reading the biographies and autobiographies of people who have spoken out against tyranny, injustice and oppression. Books like I Am Malala, the story of Malala Yousafzai who spoke out for the education of young Muslim girls, and Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic track star who spoke out and stood up against his Japanese captors during World War II. Their stories inspire me. If a 15-year-old girl can speak out for or against something, so can I.

However, it’s hard for me. I remain silent at times when I should speak up. I struggle because I do not want to offend. My personality type wants to avoid conflict. I tend to let others take stands. That’s why being a leader is not for the faint of heart. An emerging leader must be willing to step up even when it is hard or unpopular. He or she must have a courageous heart, the willingness to face failure, scorn or even pain for taking an unpopular stand. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” said Martin Luther King Jr. King gave his life for what he spoke out for.

If we are watchful and aware, we can find more opportunities than we think to stand for something. If we see someone being bullied, sexually harassed, treated disrespectfully or mistreated, we can speak out. I have often wondered what would have happened if more Germans would have spoken out against the evils of Hitler. Would we have had World War II? Speaking up may be as simple as encouraging someone to keep going, letting someone know of a potential problem or seeing any kind of issue that needs to be corrected. Taking a stand by speaking up for something will get us noticed.

The emerging leaders we are honoring in this issue may not have spoken up for huge injustices, but just gave a “voice” about something that matters. The willingness to tell the truth, to give an opinion, offer a suggestion or give constructive feedback sometimes takes courage. I often remind myself that occasionally we need to tell the emperor that he is naked. It takes courage not to be a “yes man” when that person is in charge of your paycheck or your next step on the ladder. We can’t always remain on the fence vacillating between issues. Although I know that, I sometimes use the excuse, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt,” as Abraham Lincoln is thought to have said. 

Clearly, the road to leadership starts by garnering the courage to speak up when it is not easy to do so. By doing that, it gets easier in spite of our fears. Eleanor Roosevelt counseled, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” 

Sometimes, not only do we need to speak up, but also we need to step forward. Stepping forward requires action. Our emerging leaders have likely stepped forward, seeing that something needed to be done, and done it. They are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Leaders are action oriented. The major difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is action. As some have said, “Hope is not a strategy, not a tactic.” Leaders don’t wait to be told, don’t wait for someone else to do it; they volunteer. They say, “Here I am, send me; I will do it.” Why don’t more of us step forward? Fear of success or fear of failure? To step forward also requires courage. 

Most workers put just enough effort into their jobs to keep them. Many of us could work harder or do more if we wanted to. Emerging leaders look for opportunities to step forward, because they know where they are going and know what they want. They have a vision of the future-a clear mental picture of a future desired result. They know where they want to go but may not know how to get there. Because of that, their eyes are open, scanning and looking for actions to take and opportunities to seize. People with vision ACT: Accept where they are; Create a vision of what they want (clear mental picture); and Take action. They live mostly in the proactive mode, where the majority of the world live in the reactive mode. Leaders create their future. Most of us accept the future we are dealt. “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing,” noted Theodore Roosevelt.

Action-oriented people don’t just take action because it fits with their vision. Many acts are just the right things to do. “The time is always ripe to do right,” said Martin Luther King Jr. Whether that is serving in a soup kitchen, cleaning up after a hurricane or tornado, helping a physically disabled person or visiting a shut-in, these actions do more for the person doing them than the one being done unto. Serving others or the needy provides purpose and imbues one with gratitude. Both are characteristics of people power. It’s hard not to be grateful when serving people who are less fortune than you. 

“I have never met a thoroughly depressed person who was counting his/her blessings,” said Spencer W. Kimball. Recently I saw the movie, Patriot’s Day, the story of the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing. The story, though so tragic, was inspiring to me because so many stepped forward to help the victims with little concern about their own well-being. Leaders and emerging leaders ignore their fears, stand with courage and step forward.

Speaking up and stepping forward is what emerging leaders do to become known as “emerging.” It gets them noticed, so that’s why they stand out. Standing out is the most important personal branding strategy. We live in a world of commodities. “If there is nothing very special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself, you won’t get noticed, and that increasingly means you won’t get paid much either,” noted Michael Goldhaber. You won’t get noticed if don’t speak up and step forward. Speaking up and stepping forward may increase our paychecks.

We don’t choose to follow someone because they are nice. We choose to follow because we honor them, because they have vision and because they are confident in where they are going. As a person gains experience speaking out and stepping forward, their confidence grows, their fear wanes, their influence broadens and their people power expands. We want to follow leaders who believe in themselves and are confident in their words and actions. Winston Churchill said, “To convince them, you must yourself believe.” 

Speaking up and stepping forward will increase our people power because we have developed our confidence, faced our fears and emerged as leaders. We will have followers. That is when our people power will be noticed, and we will stand out. It is never too late to become an emerging leader or to grow our people power. 

Even I can develop into an emerging leader-just not a young one.

Copyright 2017 Floor Focus