Many of us have firsthand experience dealing with vastly different styles of leadership, mine comes from decades of working for various size businesses: from very small companies to extremely large corporations. I did a little trip down memory lane and by my count I have worked directly for nineteen different bosses. In addition to that there was the hierarchy of management—all with positions of leadership. This provided me with the opportunity to witness firsthand a vast number of management and leadership styles. And it gave me a clear understanding that there is very big difference between the two.
There were a couple of recent posts on social media that got me thinking about this topic. The first was a simple posting with the message, “If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you” attributed to an anonymous source. The second, a great article, written by Bill George, former Medtronic CEO, titled, “The Massive Difference between Negative and Positive Leadership”, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/massive-difference-between-negative-positive-bill-george?trk=hp-feed-article-title-hpm.
These two posts may seem to be unrelated, but for me the message was the same. The first spoke to me about the concept of servant leadership, a term coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay titled “The Servant as Leader.” In this essay Greenleaf writes that the servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of those they lead. They share power, put the needs of others first, and help people develop and perform as highly as possible.
The second article by George discusses positive leaders and their desire to bring out the best in people. He states, “They aim to see others’ potential, to empower people to take responsibility for their actions, and to work together to make things better for all people.”
I hope that you have or will have the opportunity to work for a leader that espouses these principles. It is inspirational and will help you find the best version of yourself. If you have not had that opportunity, you can still learn from the leaders that you’ve had. I’ve often told my children that they could learn as much from seeing what not to do as they could from witnessing what is being done correctly.
Observe those in leadership roles, when you see a trait you admire write it down in your play book for future reference. This could be an interaction that made you (or others) feel important, encouraged you to push yourself to be your best, or provided you with validation that what you offer was valued.
Experiencing the opposite is also worth documenting in that play book. When a person in a leadership role (I won’t say a leader) takes credit for the work being done by others, displays an attitude that their time is more important than everyone else’s, or is always looking to blame someone, make a note to remind yourself how you felt when this happened so you can hopefully avoid doing that when you are in a leadership role.
No leader can be perfect simply because we as humans are an imperfect species. Leaders must evolve and this is much easier for the person who aspires to lead with a primary goal of helping people be their best self. It can become a calling. Those that choose to be in a leadership role because they want the power of the position and the material possessions that come with it won’t evolve and will eventually be replaced.
I encourage you to start your play book today, regardless if you are already in a leadership position or hope to be some day, we can all benefit by observing and documenting. The most value quite often is simply the process of reflection.
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