Can You Respect the Person in the Mirror?

I recently read a quote from Abraham Lincoln in which he stated his intention to conduct his administration in a manner such that, when it ended, he could like and respect the man he saw in the mirror.  This determination to do what is right is one of the hallmarks of a great leader.

Weak leaders and weaker followers do what is easy, what is expedient, that which is popular.  They are willing to compromise their ethics, their values, and their own sense of right and wrong simply to maintain their position.  They will go along to get along with no thought as to whether their actions will benefit or harm others.  In the end, they lose the respect of those who follow them and have no respect for themselves.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, know what they stand for and recognize an inviolate code of conduct that governs all that they do.  While they acknowledge the value of compromise when working for the common good, they also adhere to moral precepts that cannot be sacrificed without harming the world around them.  For these leaders, there is the proverbial “line in the sand” which cannot be crossed; principles that cannot be violated.

These leaders uphold their personal integrity so that, on any given day, they can look in the mirror and like the person that they see and respect the person that they are.

“People who know you love you as you are. Mentors love you too much to leave you where you are.”

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of hearing my good friend, Delatorro McNeal II, CSP,  speak to the National Speakers Association of Central Florida Speakers Academy class where he made this profound statement, “People who know you love you as you are.  Mentors love you too much to leave you where you are.”

Great leaders/mentors recognize that one of the greatest measures of their effectiveness will be the legacy that they create and how they pass the baton to their successors. Thus, they are always looking for opportunities to share what they know and help their followers grow and prepare for their own leadership opportunities. Rather than always telling their followers what to do, they ask the subordinate “what do you think you should do?”. Rather than mandating every step to be followed, the great leader/mentor provides the opportunity for their followers to chart their own course and, at times, to fail so that they can learn from their mistakes.

Making mistakes, stumbling, and failing are painful. However, the great leader/mentor knows that those who will become the great leaders of the future must, occasionally, suffer these setbacks in order to reach their full potential. When they occur, the great leader/mentor is there to help the person regain their footing and asks, “OK…what can be learned from this experience and what can be done differently next time?”

Great leaders/mentors love their student/followers too much to protect them from every bump and boo-boo that provide the opportunities to learn and grow. As another great leader/mentor once said, “No man who gets knocked down by life and gets back up has failed. He only fails when he fails to get back up or insists that someone or something won’t let him get back up.” Great leaders and mentors build their legacy one person at a time and measure their success by the success of those that they have nurtured.

Do You Have the Courage to Lead?

Several months ago, we met Michael, who had just been promoted into a leadership position, and Jake, his mentor.  Michael had been required to make a difficult decision, one that he knew would not be popular. Leadership often requires that the leader make those tough calls.  The leader can make the popular decision or the right decision … they are seldom both right and popular.  Often, those decisions require that the leader deal with individuals who will feel hurt and betrayed.

Consider two managers, both of whom were informed that they would have to let one employee go.  In both cases, the employee had been with the company for many years and was considered to be very good at his job.  In both cases, there was no option of finding another position within the company.  And, in both cases, the employee was traveling on business when the decision was made.  Now, let’s look at how each manager handled the situation.

Manager A knew that the employee would be angry and he, the manager, did not like confrontation.  So, in order to avoid confrontation, Manager A sent the employee an e-mail stating that his employment was being terminated at the conclusion of the trip; that there was no need for the employee to come into the office as his final paycheck would be mailed to his home and his personal belongings would be brought to him by a co-worker who lived nearby.

Manager B also knew that the employee would be angry and also would have preferred to avoid confrontation.  However, Manager B also recognized that he and the employee had worked together for over a decade and that the employee’s long service and commitment to the company demanded that the employee be treated with dignity and respect.  So, Manager B scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the employee as soon as the trip ended.  In that meeting, Manager B explained the reasons behind the downsizing and expressed regret that the employee would be leaving.  Finally, Manager B gave the employee a letter of reference citing the employee’s contributions to the company and notable accomplishments that had benefited the company.  This letter could be used in the employee’s search for new employment and explained how the new employer would be gaining a valuable, contributing member to their workforce.

As a leader, you may someday be called upon to make a difficult decision; to handle a difficult or unpleasant situation.  You can choose to lead with courage; or, you can opt for cowardice.  Choose wisely as your decision will determine how followers perceive you and your leadership; and, whether they choose to follow at all.

Do Have to be a Boss to be a Leader?

Last week, my friend Nick shared a story with me about an individual (we’ll call him “Larry”) with whom he had worked.  He called the individual a true example of leadership even though Larry’s job was never thought of as a leadership position.

“Larry and I were on a jobsite when there was a lightning strike nearby and there were people in the area of the strike.  While it wasn’t really his job, Larry immediately ran to where the people were and began checking on the condition of the people.  Who was injured?  How badly were they hurt?  Who had called the  EMT’s?

“Larry took the initiative and dug right in, making sure everyone was OK, everyone was safe.  He took the initiative when he saw something that needed to be done and made sure it was done and done right.”

Nick concluded that Larry’s willingness to respond to a need and get to work made Larry a real leader.  As Nick said, “Larry didn’t want to stand on the sidelines and direct traffic; tell everybody else what to do.  He was willing to get his hands dirty and do what needed to be done, confident that others would follow his example.”