I consider myself a leader and a visionary thinker. I am the kind of person who constantly envisions ways to make things and processes more efficient and effective.
Several months ago, my friend, Dr. Amy Butler, senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City, asked me to be a guest speaker during her doctoral seminar entitled, “The Vulnerable Leader.” I joined the class via Skype.
One of her students asked me the question, “What is the best leadership advice you’ve learned that you can share with us?”
Here’s some of what I said:
First, short-term pain is often necessary for long-term gain.
When you are leading an organization—which is after all a human organization full of all kinds of people— it is easy to become so wrapped up in personalities that you don’t make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization.
It’s easy to say to yourself, “This is too hard. Maybe it can wait till next year” or “If I make this decision then it’s going to create a lot more work for me now.”
But great leaders pull band-aids off problems no one else wants to talk about. They act with precision. They lead others toward more healthy practices. They model the characteristics they want to see in their team.
A serious leader is able to weather the storm (when it comes, and it always comes). Leaders after all see the future, not the past. And, their job is to paint the picture of the future and take people there!
Second, I love the Maya Angelou quote, which says, “When people show you who you are, believe them.”
Leaders must learn to listen to their gut. We have intuition after all. We must pay attention, not only to the words spoken, but also the words spoken beneath.
But, as leaders we can often second guess ourselves saying, “Well, maybe I should give this initiative a 3rd, 4th or 5th chance to succeed.” Or, “Maybe in time so and so will change.”
Sometimes the hard truth is simply….no.
While I believe in extending grace and giving people the benefit of the doubt, there are often times and situations that will never change if we don’t trust our gut and chart the course differently.
If you asked me what kind of leader I was 5 or even 10 years ago, these wouldn’t be the same lessons on the list. However, I believe that leadership is a work in progress. NO matter what kind of position you hold, if you lead a group of 2 or 2,000 or 20,000, you must keep growing.
This is not to say that I have it all figured out. Or that I have arrived as a leader.
But I do believe in the wisdom of John F. Kennedy who once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.”
So, if we want to be in the business of leading others, then, you and I need to be constantly improving our craft and sharing the wisdom we’ve gained along the way.
What leadership advice do you have to share?