What it means to be a king… First in every desperate attack, last in every desperate retreat and a louder laugh over a scantier meal than any man. ~ CS Lewis
If one swaps ‘leader’ for ‘king,’ in my opinion we have a perfect synopsis of the issue with today’s leaders in general. There are exceptions – those who do ‘Stand in the gap’ for their followers, employees, citizens, or family, but by-and-large, leadership has been in recent memory about the exercise of power and privilege.
From a human resources perspective, there is a plethora of research indicating that companies whose leaders’ main priority is the health and wellbeing of their employees enjoy higher productivity, fewer sick days, and less absenteeism overall. Teams whose manager spends his/her time supporting, encouraging, and building up the team see tangible results on the bottom line. Less employee turnover, less time lost, more output.
But we live in a paradoxical world – think about some of the ‘truths’ we’re bombarded with:
“Well behaved women seldom make history.”
“Good guys finish last.”
There’s more, but you get the point. We don’t hear about the good men or the good women, faithfully and carefully going about the business of leading. We hear about the those in power who are incompetent, despots, tyrants, extortionists, cruel, unjust, unethical, or as my six-year-old grandson says, “full-on criminal.” (Of course, he’s usually referring to his brother) Lord Acton is quoted as saying, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely,”and there is much about today’s leadership that would bear out the truth of this statement. Unfortunately, we are voyeuristically appalled at the excesses that come of this reality, and avidly look for, watch, and spread via social media the tales of bad deeds and wicked rulers.
“Employees quickly figure out which leaders are dedicated to helping them succeed, and which are scrambling for personal success at their expense.” ~Dame/Gedmin
As a society, and even world culture, we also want to celebrate heroes. Heroes are perceived to have done something extraordinary when they didn’t have to. We don’t, however, usually acknowledge or celebrate those people whose daily priority is to ‘…stand in the gap’ for those who follow them, whether employees, students, family, or strangers. They take their responsibility to be a role model, mentor, coach, and front row fan seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They laugh, cry, joke, cajole, admonish, teach, train, and discipline with grace, humility, and empathy. No matter their personality or style, they follow the principles of good leadership ~ people first.
“The day you become a leader is the day it becomes about them, not you. It is your responsibility to develop your team.” ~ Jack Welch, CEO General Electric
These leaders are approachable, collaborative, and ethical. They lead by example following principles which they do not confuse with practices. They encourage and support the potential in others, and they know the process by which most failures are translated into successes.
So why is it that all the wretched leaders get the press? Something is wrong with this picture.
The good ones quietly go about their business, actually leading in a way that fosters success, facilitates collaboration and teamwork, and favours the potential in others …and remain largely unknown and unsung heroes.
Where would we be without them? Nowhere good, I imagine.
Say ‘thank you’ this week to someone who has been an example, a leader, a mentor, or a positive role model for you. You’ll be glad you did. Gratitude is groovy.