Category Archives: Inspiration
Look at the list of professional roles below and see if you can find a leadership trait that each has in common with the rest:
- Circus Ringmaster
- Symphony Conductor
- School Teacher
- Healthcare Professional (Nurse, Doctor, Specialist, Weight Loss Coach)
- Law Officer
What these roles have in common is their sole purpose is to bring out the best in those they interface with, without glory for themselves. This commonality is the core of their leadership, and anyone else’s as well.
Each of these roles function is to make those around them better, while working hard to perfect their calling. They may be the focal point at first glance, but careful discernment shows the prefer others to be focused on instead.
Let’s look quickly at how each one does this and what we can learn from their approach.
Circus Ringmaster. You may think this person is the center stage attraction. Every act they have the spotlight, and their showmanship and persona gain the attention of everyone in the audience. But their core job is to build up excitement and anticipation for the main acts and to slip behind the curtain away from the spotlight to allow the performers to showcase their talents. Great leaders promote their people and never stand in the way of their ability to “Wow” their customers.
Symphony Conductor. It takes years of study to attain to this level of musical mastery, yet the conductor is only 1 of 50, 100 or more people working together. They may be a headliner to a degree (such as Arthur Fiedler) but usually perform with their back towards their audience, having the musicians face the crowd. Their job is to get the best performance of each musician, each section, and create a culture of teamwork and professionalism to give a peak performance, over and over, each night.
School Teacher. To have the power to effect young and impressionable minds of the future should not be a task taken lightly. Teachers are charged with creating foundations for academics, model citizens, and fostering behaviors to mold the next generation of (all-too-soon-to-be) adults. To balance teaching core principles, truth, critical thinking, and mutual respect as well as keeping their students engaged and motivated daily are similar to what many leaders face every day. That all with the focus of getting children to learn and believe in their talents as they are just starting to discover them.
Healthcare Professional. The roles of these women and men may work more on the physical needs, but they work on the mental and emotional needs of those that depend on them. Their goal is a simple one – to make people better, healthier – by their skills and also through education, compassion, and sacrificing themselves. Many of these women and men work long hours to save a life, often putting themselves at risk. A great leader serves others in spite of the inherent danger they may face themselves, without recognition many times. (When a patient heals, it’s almost always said they made a great recovery and rarely does the credit go the to nurse or doctor).
Pastor. A pastor’s true calling is not to build a big mega-church, write best sellers, make people feel better, or have a large video audience. Theirs is a simple yet difficult calling – to faithfully teach the Scriptures to their congregation and help them towards spiritual maturity. Handled properly they can help positively impact many lives; but an incorrect misuse of the text or their office can leave lives, families, and whole communities in shambles. Pastors devote themselves to careful study, long hours, of prayer and ministry, and forego the comforts of their home lifestyle to meet the needs of others in their homes, the hospital, or wherever the need occurs. They grieve when people falter, and are patient and long-suffering to see folks grow slowly over years and decades. They are the true servant leaders who serve others to help them grow spiritually.
Law Officer. While this role may seem out of sorts juxtaposed on this list, their position is a unique one, especially those with integrity. They swear an oath to protect and to serve others, through both enforcing the law and keeping the order and safety of the citizens in their city or town. They serve through all elements (no bad weather days) and oftentimes volunteer to put their bodies and lives at risk to ensure the welfare of others. They personify servant leadership by placing their own well being to the limits in order to ensure citizens have freedom and peace form those who oppose it.
Virtually all of these servant leader roles are thankless jobs; others get the attention and recognition when things go right, and they take all of the blame when things go wrong. Yet true servant leadership is not worried about where the credit goes, they simply want others to do better as a result of their talents and skills and position.
Consider how your own role can model a better servant leader influence. Take some guidance from these noble positions and incorporate their passion into serving others.
We like to hear of lessons in leadership, and look for relevant examples in all mediums. Whether reading articles, books or watching movies, there is always a leadership tip we can gain, whether from good or bad displays.
An example of this is one of my favorite movies – Apollo 13. One of the reasons I gravitate to that movie is not just the story itself, but Ed Harris’ character in the film.
Harris plays Gene Kranz, the NASA Flight Director in charge of the moon mission that has been derailed by an internal explosion aboard the ship. Some of the lines Kranz says helped calm the anxious flight command crew and give them hope of bringing the astronauts safely home:
“Gentlemen, at this moment, I want you all to forget the flight plan. From this moment on, we are improvising a new mission: How do we get our people home?”
“We’ve never lost an American in space and we’re sure …not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option!”
“With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”
These statements serve as an example of mission-oriented leadership. Through them, Kranz was able to rally his team, giving them direction and the hope that would resolve the crisis. His skills in knowing what the team needed to accomplish it’s charge allowed everyone to do what was needed to succeed.
The question that this poses for leaders in all fields is: “Is the ability to instill hope a necessary leadership trait?”
Leaders deal with people. People bring to the table skills, vision, insight, and emotions. The first three of these may be constants in anyone’s day, but it’s our emotions that ebb and flow with the circumstances we’re faced with.
Leaders must have a solid EQ to deal with people’s emotions. There are many factors, both internal and external to the organization AND the individual, that make a person’s belief in the mission waver.
For instance, a military commander may be outnumbered in forces and face daunting environmental challenges that shake up their troops. A volleyball coach’s team may shrink at the notion that they must play the state champs the next day.
So what leadership traits keep their teams engaged and committed to the mission at hand?
This is where hope is necessary.
Hope is a feeling of trust, an expectation for a certain outcome. It is akin to faith, a confident trust in someone or something. It’s the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hope intersects the emotional needs that your people have at any given moment. It’s not a buzzword or a catchy slogan, but a real genuine feeling of possibility that comes from doing the right things.
Hope is not always a guarantee for success, but a leader will take the slightest amount of hope to chip away at the barriers of reality and impossibility. An astute leader will dove-tail hope into the vision and mission of their organization. They will work to make sure that everyone is “laser focused” on the task at hand. More importantly, they will make the vision bigger than the obstacles that threaten the mission itself.
But where does the ability to instill hope fit into the list of leadership traits?
If you peruse many of articles on the top leadership traits – even those form leadership teachers like Peter Economy, John Maxwell, and Brian Tracy – the closest you find to this is optimism, positive attitude, and confidence. Yet none of these qualities are the same as hope.
- Optimism is an everything will work out in the end mantra. It doesn’t always factor in the inevitable crises such as what happened in the Apollo 13 mission.
- Positive attitudes tend to root out the reality. Gene Kranz was not a cheer-leading type in what he did during the aborted moon mission.
- Confidence, while a key trait, will not alone get it done. Napoleon’s confidence got the best of him when he rushed into the Battle of Waterloo. Confidence is usually centered on self and does not easily impart to others.
Giving hope to your people combines the alignment, engagement, and vision of the organization. A leader’s ability to do so will reap enormous benefits for your organization and your people.
Hope is telling your team that getting this difficult proposal done on time will open up new doors of business. Hope gives your people the drive to keep going when they don’t see the results coming together. Hope is reassuring the employees that you’ll all get through this rough financial patch intact. Hope drives doctors to cure patients, teachers to educate students, and public servants to protect their communities.
If not for the ability to instill this in their people, where would leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King have turned to? What would the people they led have become?
(this post first appeared on Lead Change Group)
(image: The Blue Diamond Gallery)
A few years ago the term “gamification” briefly became the vogue trend in business, much of which still exists today in certain manifestations. This was the application of game elements, mostly videogames, into processes to increase engagement, flow, or end-user experience.
As with any new development in new business models and techniques, this approach was both met with success and also mis-applied. Many that made gamificaiton work had infused fun and achievement into their workplace. Others that failed either mis-appropriated the principles or the fit was night right for their culture or business model.
However there is an effective way to incorporate game elements into your business and organization – by using the basic mechanics from board games.
The board game industry may seem like a trivial amusement fad, yet the mathematical processes and strategies that go into design and game play have served this industry well – to the tune of $9.4-9.6 billion of revenues worldwide.
Because of this, we can draw some ideas from their mechanics and find ways to apply them to making our organizations better.
- Social interaction. Board games are hugely popular because they are social by nature. Bringing people together in friendly competition or joint cooperative fun has always caused people to connect at a high level, Creating more fun and engaging social interaction will enable your team to compete and collaborate more effectively and without barriers.
- Minimize randomness. The Eurogame industry which fueled the board game boom in the late 1990s created games such as Puerto Rico or Agricola that were highly dependent on using items other than dice. This minimized the chance randomness and led to a more smooth and balanced gameplay. Companies can minimize randomness by discerning certain risks, constructing a smooth workflow, and designing better processes by beta testing to ensure minimal variables can disrupt the system when things are in motion.
- Worker placement & resource management. As the game Settlers of Catan showcased, these are two popular mechanics that allow people to place their pawns on the board to access areas to their advantage, and to manage the limited resources available to all players to make the most strategic use of what can be gained. An organization that knows where to place their people effectively, and can create solid products and services from limited resources (or superb products and services from abundant resources should they have them) is showing they care not to waste these precious commodities and will consistently have higher returns for their efforts than the average organization.
- Build your engine. In some games, the player needs to acquire cards, money, spaces, and other items in order to generate more cards, spaces and money in return. The classic game of Monopoly highlights this effect. Good companies know that to generate resources and money in smaller efforts that will generate even greater returns on these items more and more as time goes on is an effective means to a great ROI.
- Cooperative experience. Not all games pit players against each other. Some games, like party games or the game Pandemic or Flash Point, will pit players to team up against the game itself to save the world from a plague or a house from burning down. And not all business has to have a one winner condition. Building teamwork, team goals, and team success and developing their skills and talents in ways that individual goals could never do. And even if the team does not achieve it’s goal, the by-product of learning from others and building a stronger culture within a groups will reap long-term dividends.
- Replayability. Some games are good a few times, then become old quickly. The best games have variety built-in, never being the same twice, and always leave room for new scenarios and outcomes to occur. A successful company likewise shouldn’t be a one-trick pony – having a verity of solid people, goods, and services that can provide more to your customers is essential. Even if your organization specialize in a small niche, there is a wide array of service that can support that product, and people that can provide those services. Diversify within your model so your customers won’t get bored and shelf you for something more fun and exciting down the road.
Finding new ways to generate innovative processes and goals for your organization is what every leader works towards. Leadership principles can be found in every place if you look for them. Even in our digital age we can be inspired by bits of cardboard to teach us how to get better.