Take time over this holiday season to evaluate your leadership. For what do you wish to be known?
Reflecting over my 40-year career, I’ve thought about the best leaders with whom I’ve worked. There are many, and a few stand out more than others. If I were to summarize the traits of the best leaders into a couple of words, it would be that they took the long view. They saw in a situation, a team or a person, the long-term potential. Then they helped that situation, team or person achieve what they knew they could become.
No, it wasn’t that they implemented some new thing, created a new company, or build some cool, shiny object. It was that they saw the promise of people. Their goal wasn’t to fix a problem or seize an opportunity. Their goal was to create a sustainable capability in the people around them to do these things. John Maxwell calls it Level 5 Leadership. I call it applying my ACTIVE leadership model to develop a leadership legacy – one that develops other leaders to lead.
When leaders clarify their purpose, and keep that out in front of people, it serves as a compass. A way to help the team stay focused on the end goal. When leaders collaborate, they demonstrate the power of alignment and effective communication. When leaders coach, they aren’t trying to solve for a situation themselves, but teach others to do this. When leaders use influence, they demonstrate confidence in their team’s ability to grasp a situation and run with it. When leaders are vulnerable, they show their team that they are human, they make mistakes and humbly admit error. When leaders engage their employees, they demonstrate confidence that the people can make it happen.
Look, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are serious problems to deal with and require the wisdom and swift action of a capable leader. I understand this. However, in most situations, while it might seem easier and even better to take a command-and-control approach to expedite performance, it’s not. Building a leadership legacy requires a long-term view of an individual or group’s capability and guiding that toward long-term success.
This holiday season, I’m grateful to have worked with many “legacy leaders.” I’m grateful to count them among my best friends still today, even though it may have been years since we worked together. I learned a great deal from them. In the end, that’s the greatest gift.
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Change. Grow. Win.