I have spent much time reflecting, writing, reading and pondering what effective leadership looks like. I have written what I believe to be the positive acts of selfless leadership. And as I continue to work through the meaning of selfless leadership, and the acts that accompany said leadership, I can’t help but stop and take pause to say, I am nowhere near perfect in living out selfless leadership on a daily basis. There are many days when I don’t do it well at all. However, it is still in my heart, by desire, and my passion to give and lead selflessly. It is only through constant, mindful reflection that I return to the true purpose of leadership and realize that I have a chance to do it right tomorrow. But isn’t that what leadership is all about? Doing your best, raising the bar, and when you don’t hit the mark, admit your failures, reflect and learn from them, and try again tomorrow.
Confucius once said, “Learning without reflection is a waste of time; reflection without learning is dangerous.” An effective leader is one who is in a constant state of reflection. One of my favorite authors, Brian Lomenick, once wrote, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real versus a leader who is always right. Don’t try to be a perfect leader, just work on being an authentic one.” I find these words to be the heart of what is missing in most leadership. Many times we try to have all the right answers, have the right things to say, do all the right things, etc. The truth is, leadership is not a position, it’s a person; and people are fallible. We gain more trust and respect from those we lead when we show our humanity, vulnerability, and authenticity than when we put on a front and pretend we have all the right answers. What does this mean? It means leadership will fail, and when we do, we need to be authentic, humble, and confess our faults.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you spend an entire work group or team building seminar confessing all your sins and faults to a group of people. What I am saying is when you make a mistake, own it. When you say the wrong thing, apologize. When your actions break relationship, seek to rebuild it. Humility is a missing trait in leadership these days. Turn on the TV, read the news, or watch social media, and you will see hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of leaders leading through arrogance rather than humility. As I said, humility is a lost trait in today’s leaders. It’s okay to be wrong, but it’s not okay to never admit you’re wrong. Humility is a hard pill to swallow, but when we do, it softens our heart and our eyes for the people we lead.
This post is titled “Confession Time” because I have to confess, I am not perfect at doing things right all the time. I can get caught up in emotions and lash out on unsuspecting individuals. I wrestle with doing the right thing at times, even when it is a simple act of kindness or being responsible. For example, walking down the street and seeing a piece of trash, I know very well that I should pick it up and do the right thing, but too often I walk right on by and leave the trash behind me. I know I should smile and ask how someone is doing, but my selfishness takes over, and I don’t want to take the time to engage or invest. I am not perfect, and I know I will never be. However, this is NEVER an excuse to stop trying to be the best me I can be. Once I beat myself into submission, I will walk back and pick up that trash or go back to the person and ask how they are doing. Leadership should never be about me, and selfishness is the hardest monster to defeat. But, the monster is beatable.
I want to encourage you to fight the good fight of selfless leadership. I want you to know that you are not alone in wrestling to do the right thing all the time. I want to encourage you in your journey to be the best version of yourself you can be. It’s okay to make mistakes, just don’t ignore them. Own them, reflect on them, learn from them, and do what is needed to be authentic and real. As the great playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, once wrote, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”