Author Archives: Paul LaRue
We had high hopes for 2020 this past January.
There was no way any of us could have predicted the dramatic events for the first 5 months. Global pandemic. Racial murders. Rioting and looting. Worldwide economic turmoil.
This past week’s senseless murder of a black citizen at the hands of a white officer, and the resulting violent protests while not only grievous, can only teach us one truth.
You can only change the world by changing you.
Much of my writing has been geared towards inward directed leadership, with the realization that if you want to change the world, it starts with the person on the inside. Unless an individual determines in their heart to change, to respect and treat all people with value and to focus their efforts on changing the person on the inside, then no real lasting pivots can ever result.
It is up to you – and me – each of us individually to make the change we desire.
We can change the attitudes of our employees when we treat them right. We can change the course of a toxic leader when we leave their company.
We can change the perception of tribalism by showing respect and empathy to others who are different. We can make that other person feel comfortable by validating their voice and giving them value as a fellow human being.
We can vote for our elected leaders. We can shut off the biased news media and not feed into social media trolls. We can also find the truth in our news sources and determine to study what’s true.
We can respond in righteous anger and make positive change by doing no harm, or we can join in the needless destruction of property of those who are innocent because our anger justifies it.
We can choose not to farm out our individual responsibilities to someone else and take ownership for our lives.
We can work towards changing our lateral relationships towards others. We can also work towards changing our vertical relationship towards heaven.
But it has to start with you. I know because it starts with me. I can’t change you, and neither can you change me. But if we both show an example of change together we can multiply our efforts.
I saw two quotes on social media since George Floyd’s murder last week that unfortunately blame the problems in our world towards forces remote and larger than us. No disrespect to those that wrote them, but it gives a feeling of hopelessness and that the system is against us.
Society manifests what leadership tolerates.
The system is not broken it was built this way.
Great leaders, and great people, take responsibility for their world, so I’ve inverted these saying to reflect this thinking on how you can change the world around you.
Leadership tolerates what society manifests.
The system is not built this way it was broken.
The greatest changes in world history have not been from the top down, but common people choosing to change their response. And if we choose so, we can do the same.
Examine yourself and your motives. Closely. What makes you willingly disrespect and devalue another human being needs to change.
Change can only start at the top if leaders at the top change. Most of us are not at the top, but are closer to the foundation of the right type of change – respectful, thoughtful and mutually beneficial – that the world can build upon.
The greatest hope in our world is that we all have the ability to change. We simply must choose to do so. Even if it means sacrificing our selfish ambitions, status and possibly friends. All great change in ourselves is rewarded at some level far beyond what we gave up to attain it.
And it starts with you.
It’s very easy to slip into a path of negativity in your leadership. It’s a basic tenet of people to slide into negative outlooks and behaviors unless acted on from some outside agent, or disciplined from within.
In the current state of our world, with Covid-19 lock-downs and their resulting economic impact, racial police brutality that leads to riots, and people on social media harassing others in a self-appointed social justice warrior role, it’s easier than ever to become more negative, or at least stay there longer.
Negativity is always waiting to manifest within ourselves. When we allow more negative to taint our effectiveness, we lessen our impact to others and our own outlook.
It’s a drain on any organization that will always have diminishing returns. And yet it’s completely avoidable if we take some proactive measures. Here are & ways to lead positively by adopting habits that crowd out negativity from impacting you.
- Lead With A Clear, Positive Vision. A vision centered around despair and “what-ifs” will not encourage others to grind out towards a clouded goal. Nor will a goal that is unclear, or unspecified. Having a big, audacious vision for what lies ahead and making sure it’s clear (and clearly communicated) to all will get the teams eyes on a common goal.
- Assume Positive Intent. Most of the time leaders assuming the worst in their people will only erode that employee’s trust. Just like most worrying is about things that never end up occurring, assumptions of ill-will are usually unfounded. Having an outlook of positive intent, such as what Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo has adopted in her life and leadership, can be the single best approach to changing your leadership impact.
- Look For What’s Working. Plans fail. Machines break. Employees Struggle. Systems break down. A lot can take away your attitude, such as worrying about what you don’t have instead of using what you already have at your disposal. Being content in what is working and available leads to a leveraging that is more beneficial and productive. Celebrating what’s working and succeeding are good places to start.
- Communicate Incessantly. Negativity breeds faster, so it must be diluted with communication that’s upbeat and assuring. Positive messaging is a change in habits, but ultimately becomes easier over time. What needs to be communicated is vision, work culture, goals, successes and recognition of what is working. Everything on this list won’t be impactful if not communicated to everyone on your team. Inoculate your people with the right type of communication.
- Keep Away From Negative Influences/Influencers. This is probably more internal than external. Any leader needs to be informed of the world around them. To be blissfully ignorant of socio-economic, market, political and physical forces is a naive approach to your role. However, consuming more negative input than positive messages will create hopelessness, distrust and divisiveness in your own being. Just as feeding on junk food is harmful to your body, it’s difficult to lead effective and visionary change by gorging on influences and people that make your outlook anemic.
- Be A Positive Impact In Your World. Having a determination that you will enable others to make a tremendously bright impact on your sphere of influence will start your team in a productive direction. Coupled with communicating vision, focusing on how to make lives better through your work culture, services, products or just from interacting with you and your people can be a huge intangible difference in other’s lives. Look at how you can make everyone’s (or as many as humanly possible) brighter by how you conduct your affairs and those of your organization.
- Seek Opportunity In Every Situation. No matter how challenging the times, there is always opportunity. Some of our best medical advances have unfortunately come during periods of war. We have seen numbers of companies pivot during this Covid-19 pandemic – such as distilleries making sanitizer and game companies making face masks – because they saw opportunities to meet a need for the common good.
We can wait for circumstances to be better, and they most likely will. However, good and bad times have always and will always ebb and flow.
Making your leadership one of positivity, one that is beneficial and not consumed by the world’s events, will empower you to help others lift their heads and efforts above the challenges of the day.
It starts with an effort to block the despair and cynicism both from within yourself and from the outside.
“Why?” asks the employee to their boss.
“Because that’s our policy,” the boss retorts.
Not a great way to exhibit leadership you might say. One can assume the employee walks away from that interaction feeling diminished, not being able to get an honest answer to their question.
Which in turn offers the question: Do we value rules over the benefit of solid working relationships with our people?
Rules – policies, procedures, behavioral guidelines – are necessary. They govern actions to ensure synergy, compliance and trustworthy actions.
Yet relationships can achieve those same things with more effective impact.
People are more relationship driven than rules driven. When they feel a connection, a place of valuation and inspiration, they invariably give more of a concentrated effort and their performance will be better as a result.
Think of the sports team whose coach demands execution versus the one who inspires the players to be their best. Many of the greatest sports teams that have existed – and military platoons that fought for their commander and companies whose employees were appreciated by their owners – attained that because they worked hard for their coach due to the relationship that was forged. They gave that coach, commander, owner their all as a result of the relationship. Not because of the rules they imposed.
Rules are necessary. Relationships are desired.
Be the leader who enforces relationships, not just rules.