Leadership? You? Isn’t that just for the top of the ‘food chain’? You just want an entry-level job, a promotion to the next rung, or to simply keep your job in tight times, right? In today’s corporate world, you think to yourself, you’ll be lucky to get to a leadership position in the next five years. Wrong! If leadership is not the most overused and misunderstood word, then it certainly ranks in the top ten in today’s corporate corridors. It’s time to set the record straight.
In my book, The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable, Gwen, a key character, learns leadership is not about title or position or being the decider – that’s positional authority. It’s not about knowing it all, creating a fearful atmosphere, or getting obedience from others. Real leadership is about collaboration, asking questions that promote learning, and creating an atmosphere of innovation. And, she also learns, real leadership is for everyone. Moreover, it can be honed with practice, but it starts internally and grows from there. Gwen comes to understand real leadership is a way of life. It is a choice about creating open, honest, authentic relationships that urge others to want to discover their power and focus on what matters to them and their community. It is about knowing what matters to you and what you want from your life, not just your job. Gwen learns real leaders ask, “what do I want my life to look like today” not, “what do I have to do today”. Big difference. There are four simple to remember principles to keep in mind as you begin a leadership journey like Gwen. We call them Robert’s Rules: The Four Commitments.
First, Show Up. Be present at all times. Leadership is a moment-to-moment choice. Close the gap between your beliefs and behaviors. If you can’t walk the talk, sit down and zip your lips. Listening deeply to others and considering their perspective is a must. This gap closure creates a credibility path so that others want to “join” with you and not just be viewed as mere followers.
Secondly, Speak Up. Be heard. Discover your voice. Help others find theirs. Speak from your heart and create a vision story that offers a script of a positive future as well as everyone’s potential role in it. Consider today’s story and what the future needs to look like. Keep in mind who or what will assist or oppose. Invite others to join. Just because they are working with you doesn’t mean they feel welcomed. They need to know the benefits of walking the path with you.
Third, Step Up. Be an action hero. Erase your limiting thoughts. Question everything, especially systems, policies and procedures. Urge others to blow up their mental boundaries and see obstacles as opportunities for innovation. Remember, it’s okay to fail. Not getting the result you thought you would get from an action might be the best learning tool on the planet.
Finally, Serve Up. Be of service at all times. Be an integral part of a diversified cast of talented leaders. Honor everyone’s individuality. Recognize efforts creatively and meaningfully. Create your masterpiece and help others create theirs. And don’t forget to commit. Gwen learned that with commitment, people will climb the highest peak to help you challenge the largest obstacles. Without commitment, nothing changes. Not you. Not them. Nothing!
Robert H.Thompson is the author of The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable, a speaker and executive coach. He can be reached at http://www.leaderinsideout.com.