by Brian Patterson
In the past few months, I have been solely focused on studying and applying leadership principles for the purpose of advancing a state service agency and it is an incredible task and opportunity- the sky’s the limit! So many people suffer or, at least, are under-productive because of inadequate or inappropriate leadership.
There have been leaders throughout history who sparked incredible movements for their time but, seemingly, no one picked up the mantle and continued enough to produce a paradigm shift in leadership thinking. Leadership usually resorts to position power, ‘carrots and sticks’ thinking and the presumption that the leader must be better than the followers or they would not be in the position. It’s circular reasoning. Few leaders invest in themselves so that they have more to offer those they lead.
Three leadership trends and philosophies that I have been studying have a different bent- a 21st Century approach. They are Transformational Leadership, Servant Leadership and Lead Management by Dr. William Glasser. All three value the followers as more than just a resource or business calculation. Preserving the dignity and raising the vision of those who are led seems to propel each philosophy. I am encouraged when I read about any of the three. John Knox, the 16th Century Scottish reformer wrote, “You cannot antagonize and influence a person at the same time.” Being a boss rather than a leader attempts to do that. In today’s society, I believe that we can accomplish more by treating people kindly and having a powerful shared vision for success.
“Hope begins in the dark: the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott
There are three requirements for leadership at any level. No matter where you are positioned in a company, agency or family, you have someone who follows you.
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”- Winston Churchill
Responsibility is first demonstrated by ‘just showing up”. On time helps, too. No excuses- just do it. Build on that. Gain a reputation for being on time. People should worry if you’re not there on time. Show up ready to work, rested and focused. Show up with a positive ‘can do’ attitude. Replace complaining with encouragement for others. If you feel sad or lonely, reach out to help someone else. If you look around, there are many in your world who need you.
“Respect starts with respecting you.”
I often had students at the alternative high school where I worked who would begin their relationship with a warning: “I’ll respect you if you respect me.” That was always my intention but the warning told me that there might be a problem so I probed and asked them to define respect. They often struggled to find another word but in the conversation ot usually meant fear. So I would say, “So, you mean if I fear you, you will fear me? Who is going to start the respect? That seems a little silly if we are going to work together, doesn’t it?” Then I would make sure they knew that I was only there to help them reach their goals and I would not embarrass them.
Those you lead have many problems in their perceived world. Until you treat them respectfully they will not open their perceptions to you so that you can discover where the shared vision lies. You cannot inspire and influence them toward greatness that exists in each one until they know that you care about them.
Art Williams was a small town high school football coach who started a part-time insurance business to supplement his salary and eventually built his company into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. His net worth is now estimated at $1.4 billion. He became wealthy helping other people save money and helping others build their own businesses.
Here is what he said, reflecting on success, “What is the 500,000 dollar a year person do, the 50,000 dollar person doesn’t do? You’re looking outside and study those 2 individuals; everything seems to be the same. They’re both of the same sex, they’re both of the same age, they have the same train, the same positions, the same contract, the same fringe benefits, both are successful, they work hard, they’re good family people, make tough commitments. But what’s the difference? He pays the price a little bit more, he works hard a little bit more….”
“If you want to become someone, do it. If you want to go into business, do it. If you want to become financially independent, do it. I hear too much talkin’…”
“Art, Art what’s the primary difference between winners and losers? The winners do it…. They do it, and do it, and do it, and do it, until the job gets done. And then they talk about how great it is to finally have achieved something unique.”
Other advice he gave to aspiring leaders:
Build personal relationships.
You win with your heart, not your head.
You control only two things: your attitude (positive or negative) and your activity- be a leader or sit on your butt.
Everybody hates a boss but everybody needs a coach.
The worst two words in the English language are, “I can’t!”
Have a balanced life.
Find something you believe in.
I was with that company for a while and learned a great deal about myself. I learned that insurance and investments did not interest me at all. I was not prepared for that industry but the principles I learned about leadership have propelled me through difficulties and times of success.
One of my colleagues there once told me, “Patterson, the one thing that impresses me about you is that you just keep getting up!”
That is one of the best compliments I ever received and, I believe, is the definition of leadership.