You might not consider yourself a leader but chances are at some point in your life you will be asked to lead others. No matter if the context is work, school, sports or your family, a valuable question to ask yourself is, “what does it look like to lead well?”
Thankfully, I’ve had many gifted and loving people pour into my life over the years. They have shown me what leadership looks like by their words and actions.
As I reflect on what they have taught me, here are ten important lessons I’ve learned about leadership through the influence of others.
- Love the People you lead
Leadership is not primarily about tasks. It is about people.
Opening up your heart to the people you are responsible to lead can be scary. It takes time and emotional energy. It also hurts more when people move on. On the flip side, there is more joy, connectedness and contentment than if you keep your heart closed off.
- Keep your priorities straight
The pursuit of success can blind us to what is truly important in life. I talk to a lot of guys in their 50’s and 60’s who wish they would have spent more time with their wife and kids instead of running after the next promotion.
I can either look at my marriage and family as a hindrance or my primary place to lead well. When I get the order right, I find myself thriving in both places. When I don’t, well…it’s not where I want to live.
- It’s not about you
If you are leading people to yourself and how great you are, you are leading them to the wrong place. People need to be engaged in a mission greater than themselves. That mission is not you.
Also…don’t take yourself too seriously.
- More is caught than taught
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for formal training in leadership. Practical instruction is always important. However, what really sticks with people isn’t what you taught them on an intellectual level, it’s how you treated them and how you interacted with the world around you.
- Leaders are Learners
The phrase, “Leaders are readers” is also popular. I’ve always got a couple of books I am working through (usually very slowly!) but learning includes more than books. Listening to podcasts, radio, reading blogs and watching movies can all be excellent ways to learn. Even better…take time to listen to people. You might be surprised at what you discover.
- Keep the main thing, the main thing
It is extremely easy to get distracted from my primary focus. There are a lot of “good” things that I can do. I need to constantly remember the vision before me and filter my decisions through that.
- If you want to lead, follow
Someone wise once told me, “The best leaders have learned to be the best followers”. That’s a great way to evaluate the leadership potential of others as well as a great statement to reflect on.
Once someone lets “leader” become an identity rather than a role, it almost always creates issues.
- Don’t ask people to do things you aren’t willing to do
Pretty straightforward but surprisingly not that common.
That doesn’t mean that leaders should ALWAYS be doing what everyone else is doing. There are certainly times that leadership requires a different focus. Still, true leaders aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get dirty.
- As goes the leader, so goes the movement
Every organization, business, church etc. will take on the personality and values of the leader.
When I was working for Wegmans, I noticed that every store had a different “vibe” even though they each carried the same products and had the same systems in place. I eventually came to realize that this personality was based more on the store manager than anything else.
If you want what you are leading to be healthy, YOU must pursue health in your own life.
- Stay Thankful
No one appreciates being around people who are ungrateful. We all know this instinctively. Yet because leading requires thinking about a better future thankfulness can slowly evaporate like a puddle on a hot summer day.
Taking time to write a “thank you” note, an email of gratitude or simply saying “Thank you, so much!” face to face can do a lot to keep thankfulness alive and well in your heart.
Those are some of my favorites. There are definitely a lot more!
How about you? What do you think of that list? Is there anything you would add/subtract? I’d love to hear what you think!