Serving and Responsibility

On a ride home with a buddy of mine the other day, he and I started talking about serving others and what that looks like. The conversation led him to reveal that he has a hard time not taking on the responsibility of the individuals that he is serving. He stated that while he wants to serve others, he finds himself wanting to take ownership of people’s needs and responsibilities. He told me that he knows it is not his responsibility to work things out for others or to get things completed for others, but he struggles with taking on ownership that isn’t his to take. After hearing this, it led me to question the line between serving others and taking responsibility for others.

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I believe service to be the key element to leadership, that selfless leadership is about serving those around us, and that service is the highest form of leadership.  However, there is a fine line between serving others and taking responsibility for others. If we do not set clear boundaries between the two, then we can begin to build resentment and frustration toward the people we should be serving.

Service is about supporting, helping, and encouraging others through action and word. Serving others can take on a multitude of forms. Some acts of service may be small; others can be life changing or life altering. For example, seeing an individual struggling to pay for the groceries in the check out line and volunteering to pay for their groceries is an act of service. Or it could be as big as the service given by C. S. Lewis to his late friend whom he lost in World War II. He took in his late friend’s mother and cared for her until her dying day. Some acts of service will hardly have an impact on our lives, while others might completely change how we live. 

Serving others should never be about enabling or allowing for poor decision making. It should never be about taking the responsibility of others as our own. Paying for someone’s groceries at the check-out line, because they didn’t have the means to do it themselves at that time, is not taking on that individual’s responsibility nor is it enabling them. Rather, you are providing an act of service for someone in need at a specific time. This changes when you continue to give them money for groceries while they do nothing to try and earn their own income to provide for themselves. That is when you have taken on their responsibility and have enabled them to continue living without taking on personal responsibility. 

Selfless leadership means we serve those we influence. We do not enable, make excuses for, or fail to hold others accountable. Serving others should be our aim every day. We should be looking for ways to help others and provide support and encouragement where needed. We do not take on the responsibilities of others, but rather help others complete or accomplish their responsibilities. Ultimately, it is still the other person’s job to complete or fulfill their own responsibilities. But let’s admit it, getting help when our responsibilities seem overwhelming allows us time to take a breath and feel more confident in taking ownership of our responsibilities.

Live a life of leadership through service. We all need help from time to time, and seeking out ways to serve others is a way to enrich our own life. Help, support, and encourage others in their responsibilities, but do not take on other’s responsibilities for them.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

A Problem That Doesn’t Exist…

I read a post the other day where a group blamed a political party for, “solving a problem that doesn’t exist.” This statement seems to be going around a lot these days. What’s interesting is that it is leadership’s responsibility to mitigate potential problems before they exist, or to mitigate unseen issues that are currently happening. Good leadership does not react. Instead, they are proactive, looking to solve potential issues before they become reality. It doesn’t matter the company or organization, if leadership is reactive, rather than proactive, then the company/organization will always be a few steps behind. It will also wreak havoc on the staff. Just because a problem doesn’t exist now, doesn’t mean one won’t exist in the future.

A good organization has leadership that is able to head off problems as they come. A great organization has leadership that looks to mitigate issues before they happen. Leadership should be focused on seeing the potential issues that could come their way. They need to be able to focus on seeing possible issues they may have with the public, staff, other organizations, and so on. When all signs lead to failure, you don’t wait until failure happens to deal with said failure. It is important to be cognizant of the warning signs that point to anticipated problems. Leadership should be so in tune with what’s going on within and around their organization that nothing will surprise them. The question then becomes, how does leadership do this?

Leadership must have a sense of awareness. They need to keep a birds eye view of every aspect within their organization. If leaders become tunnel visioned, they will miss the warning signs of looming issues. Instead of zeroing in on problems, leadership must take a step back and ask, “How did this happen?”, and, “What can we do to avoid this in the future?” Blame is never the answer when problems need solving. Action is what is necessary. Being aware and in tune with the organization can only happen when leadership takes on a very specific role – being present.

Leadership that sits behind a desk will never be fully aware of the issues and problems that may be manifesting within the organization. Leadership that leads from the top will never know the real issues and problems that are affecting the organization. To be intune and aware of potential issues and problems, leadership must be present and lead from within their organization. Leadership needs to be among their staff. They need to listen, observe, ask questions, and spend time investing in their people. A leader who is rarely seen is a leader who is clueless to what is happening within and among their staff and organization. A clueless leader is a reactive leader, not a proactive leader. It is crucial that leadership spends the majority of their time among their staff; serving. 

Problems arise when we lack knowledge or are too consumed with our own ego that we neglect the needs of others. Leaders must be servants first. We must come alongside our staff and invest in them by giving up our time to ensure our staff is taken care of. The more we engage and invest in our staff, the more knowledge we gain about the problems and issues that may be plaguing our organization. It also gives us a better understanding of what we can do to mitigate issues and plan for the future. Being fully present with our staff gives us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive when problems and issues may arise. It is leadership’s job to solve problems that don’t exist. After all, just because they don’t exist today, doesn’t mean they won’t exist tomorrow. Be present, be aware, and be engaged.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Not Conformed, But Transformed

It’s easy to look at what’s happening around the country, or even the world, and jump on a bandwagon. It’s easy to conform to the ideologies of the masses for fear of being different, causing rifts, or simply not wanting to feel alone. The problem with conforming so easily is that we forfeit our courage and integrity. We lose sight of what is right and true for the sake of comfort and acceptance. Do not conform to this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Be strong and courageous. Stand for what is right, rather than conform to the masses. Do not allow yourself to be pushed by every wind of doctrine that comes your way. Lead in a way that will never compromise your character or integrity. 

The ways of the world are as changing as the currents of the ocean. If we are always looking to conform to the ways of the world, then we will never stand for what is right, know truth from lie, or even know who we are.  The world should not be the one to tell us what to think, how to act, or what to do. We must be the ones who build personal moral and ethical codes that are based on facts and truth. Instead of seeking acceptance from the world, we should be looking at what is morally and ethically right to accept from the world. Choosing to conform to impulsive ideologies that change in an instant proves our ignorance and lack of self-confidence and courage. Conforming builds a foundation of sand that will ultimately crumble and cause us more anguish in the end.

We are called to be strong and courageous. We are called to stand for what is morally and ethically right. We are called to be lions in the midst of jackals. We are called to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We are called to take care of the orphans and widows. If we are called to do and be all of these things, then the last thing we want to do is conform to the ways of this world. The world teaches the opposite of everything we are called to be. As leaders, we must stand tall in the midst of chaos and confusion. We must be the light that others can see in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them. If we are constantly swayed by the ways of the world, we will become the darkness that surrounds others rather than the light that brings hope, strength, and encouragement. 

We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We must set aside the ways of this world and traverse the narrow path. Truth doesn’t become less true because people refuse to accept it. Facts don’t stop being facts because people refuse to accept them. We need to seek truth, stand for what is right, lead with integrity, and never compromise moral and ethical standards for personal gain and public acceptance. To renew our mind, we must do what is opposite of what this world finds acceptable. We must remove ourselves from the equation and seek to be servant leaders. While serving, we must protect the weak and stand for truth all the while holding ourselves to higher morals and ethics. 

Lead in a selfless way, but stand for what is right. Serve, but never compromise. Stay humble, but be assertive. Don’t conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Transform your mind to to be a leader that stands for what is right, protects the weak, leads with integrity, and will never compromise their character for the approval of the world. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Hard Work AND Discipline

Out of all the life lessons I teach my children, there is one thing that I want to engrain in my children’s mindset – You can do and become anything you want with hard work and discipline. There is nothing that can stand in their way if they put in the hard work and have discipline. In fact, the only person who will stand in their way is themselves. Also, it’s not “either, or” it is “both, and”. Success is gained through hard work AND discipline. You can try to earn success with one or the other, but you will find that it takes both to reach the pinnacle of success.

Out of all the qualities one can choose, it only takes hard work and discipline to become the best version of you. The problem is people will either shy away from discipline, and/or they will refuse to put in the hard work that is needed. Both qualities come with some form of sacrifice that will force you out of your comfort zone. Discipline means you have to do something whether you want to or not. Hard work means you put in 100% effort every time. Both sound like a grind, and to be honest, they are, but the outcome of a life dedicated to hard work and discipline outweighs a life of complacency and excuses. 

In the introduction, I stated that I want my children to know that they can do and become anything they want. This holds true for you, the reader. It doesn’t matter what age you are – age is just a number. As Jordan Peterson stated, “You’re not everything you could be, and you know it.” This means there needs to be a shift in thinking. Instead of, “It’s too late for me,” or, “This is just who I am,” your thinking needs to be more, “I am not my best yet. I have work to do.” You also need to understand that changing a lifestyle or ideologies is not an overnight process. It will take time. In fact, it’s going to take hard work and discipline. 

This is not an “either, or” concept. You need both hard work and discipline. You need to show up with 100% effort every time. In order to do that, you need to discipline yourself to do it, so when the time comes when you don’t want to, you do it anyway. Something else that you need to keep in mind is that time is irrelevant. If you started tomorrow with this new drive and attitude, don’t expect major results within a few days, few weeks, or maybe even a few months. This isn’t about seeing a final destination and getting yourself there. This is about one day at a time. It’s about you being purposeful in your commitment to yourself to become better. 

Do you want to be a better boss, employee, father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, friend? Then work hard at the qualities that need to change and discipline yourself to give 100% effort every day; especially when you don’t want to. You are essentially breaking bad habits and removing negative patterns and routines from your life. If you are serious about becoming better, then it’s going to take a mindset focused on hard work and discipline.

Do you want to become better at organization, time management, specific skills, etc.? Then work hard at strengthening the areas you want to become better at and discipline yourself to give 100% effort every time. We all have areas that we can become better in. Our problem is that we make excuses for why we haven’t changed or don’t change the things about us that need changing. It means we have to become uncomfortable and do the things that we don’t want to do – work hard and be disciplined. 

The British advertising tycoon, David Oglivy, once said, “Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.” Former Navy Seal and founder of Echelon Front, Jocko Willink, says, “Discipline equals freedom.” It is up to us to become the best version of ourselves. No one is going to do it for us. It is up to us to put in the hard work and discipline to better ourselves. Stop making excuses. Resist complacency and apathy. Push yourself every day. After all, you can do or become anything you want with hard work and discipline. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

The Dichotomies of Life

I read a post the other day that said, “Life is not a competition; it’s a journey.” My first reaction was to agree with the statement, but the more I thought about it, I found myself struggling with this concept. On one hand, life is a journey, but it is also a competition. A couple days later, I was watching a motivational video, and the title said, “Don’t focus on others, focus on yourself.” Again, I found myself struggling with this concept. On one hand I agree, but on the other hand, we need to focus on others. Life is filled with dichotomies, and we must carefully balance our thoughts,  ideologies, and convictions between them all. 

Let me begin by saying life is not “either, or”, life is “both, and.” We tend to live our lives in absolutes, where we place “either, or” constructs on our thinking. In reality, life is very much “both, and.” Please don’t misunderstand me, there are absolutes, but when it comes to personal or leadership growth and development, we need to remember that nothing is “either, or.” For example, it’s not, “I either need to be assertive, or I need to be humble.” It should be, “I need to be assertive, and I also need to be humble.” Be careful that you do not build mental constructs that force you to think in “either, or”. It is important that we understand life with a “both, and” mentality and stay our thinking away from extremes.

Life is a competition, and it is also a journey. We are always in competition, and to think that we are not hinders our ability to grow, rise, and become more. Competition is good and healthy. It is okay to see life as a competition. Competition is part of our genetic code. It is engrained in our humanity. From the earliest humans, we have always had to be in competition. Throughout the world, competition is still very much alive and well. Now, I am not talking about the kind of competition one might find in sports. Rather, I am talking about the competition we face in life. We compete for mates, we compete for jobs, we compete for success, and so much more. Life is a competition. Not only do we compete with others, we are and should always be in competition with ourselves. As the saying goes, “The only person you should be better than is the person you were yesterday.” Competition is good, and we should never shy away from it. Otherwise, we become weak, useless, and unmotivated. However, we should never allow competition to overrule our focus. Be aware of the competition in your life, but do not allow your focus to be solely on competition.

Life is also a journey. Life is about taking one purposeful step after another. Our life journey should be about becoming better, becoming more. No journey is in a straight line. Life’s path has consistent twists, turns, curves, hills, valleys, and even cliffs. The question is, what are you learning, and how are you improving throughout your life’s journey? How are you becoming better than the person you were yesterday? How are you applying the lessons that you are learning? A journey requires taking action. It requires movement not stagnation. A journey means you are taking one step after another. We need to be careful that we do not get lost on our journey. Yes, life is a journey, but that doesn’t mean we take every path that comes our way, nor does it mean we get lost in the scenery. A journey requires movement, and our journey doesn’t stop until we are 6 feet under. 

We must be careful not to become so self absorbed throughout our journey that we neglect those who are a part of our journey. On the other hand, we must be careful not to put too much focus on others and lose sight of ourselves in the process. This is a dichotomy that many struggle with. We tend to either focus more on others and less on ourselves, or we focus everything on ourselves and neglect those around us. There must be a careful balance between these thoughts. 

We must focus on ourselves so that we can keep growing, become better, and stay mentally and emotionally healthy. We need to ensure that we are applying the things we are learning along our journey. If we do not focus on ourselves, we may miss valuable lessons and learning opportunities. However, focusing on ourselves does not mean we become self-centered. Rather, it means we are self-aware. We know our limits and limitations. We know when we need a break and when we can keep pushing forward. We know when we need to change our mind and when we need to stand our ground. Do not confuse self-awareness with self-centeredness. We must always stay self-aware, and the best way to do that is through reflection, meditation, and discipline.

On the other hand, we need to invest in the people around us. We need to be an encouragement and support to the people we lead, or to those who join us on our life journey. We mustn’t become so self absorbed that we neglect the relationships in our life. When we focus solely on ourselves, we build an attitude of entitlement and self centeredness. These two qualities lead us to fail at the one thing in life that matters most – building strong, quality relationships with those we lead. Side note: I have mentioned in previous blog posts that we are all leaders. If we interact with people, which we all do, we then have the power of influence. That is what makes each one of us a leader. If we fail at being a positive influence and building healthy relationships with the people who are in our life, or who we may meet along our life journey, then we have failed at the most important part of life. There must be a healthy, positive balance between self awareness and selfless servanthood.

Do not allow yourself to get stuck in the “either, or” mentality. Be flexible and open to the reality of “both, and.” Life is filled with dichotomies, and we must find balance between the extremes. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

The Gift

There is a movie that just came out on Netflix called Don’t Look Up. The movie is about two low-level scientists who found a giant asteroid on a collision course toward Earth. These two scientists go around the world warning people of their impending doom. The movie is less about the asteroid, and more about the response that people give to these scientists. The responses vary from complacency to being degraded and ridiculed. The question is raised, “If you knew the time of your death, what would you do differently now?”. I want to pose a similar question, “If you knew the time of your death, what changes would you make in your life to become a better version of you?”. 

Most of us, if asked this question, would immediately think of things we would change or do differently. Our changes might be physical, mental, relational, or even spiritual; all of which are good aspects to consider. In fact, I would bet that we could write a list of qualities that we would change or things we would do differently. However, here’s the dichotomy of this scenario and reality: In our scenario, you know the time of your death. In reality, your death is ever a mystery.  Why would knowing our death change our response to becoming a better person? Shouldn’t we heed the idea even more so because our death is unknown? Why wait till it’s too late?

Denzel Washington said, “Every day you wake up is a new chapter to the rest of your life.” Think about that statement. Your life is a book, and you are the author. Everyday is a new chapter, and like all books, one chapter does not define the rest of the book. It is a progression; a journey; a process. Your story is what you want to make it. You can either define your story by holding on to the past, holding on to regrets, or blaming others for your lack of progress and success; OR you can define your story by waking up everyday with a passion to become a better version of you. Your past doesn’t define you. Your environment doesn’t define you. You are defined by your choices and your choices ALONE. 

If knowing our end date means we would choose to be better in different areas of our life, then why not do something about it now when our end date is unknown? If you were to sit down and write what you think people would say about you at your own funeral, what kind of things would you write? Would it all be good? Would it be honest and truthful? This exercise can be so powerful if done correctly. It gives you the opportunity to be introspective and assess the areas in your life that you know need to change. I challenge you to do this little activity. Be honest and real with yourself. If you find that you have written nothing down that needs to change, then you need to look deeper. We all have things we can change for the better.

Have you ever seen Kung Fu Panda? If you have children, it’s probably one you have seen. In the movie, there is a scene where Po, the panda, is stuffing his face full of peaches sitting under a peach tree. As Po is gorging himself, Grand Master Oogway, the tortoise, comes up and points out that the peach tree is really the Tree of Wisdom. Oogway notices that Po is worried and anxious. When asked why, Po starts telling Oogway of all the things he doesn’t seem to be able to do right. He’s more concerned about what was or what will be. Oogway then quotes an ancient proverb, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.” In other words, every day we are given is a present. It is an opportunity to do great things, become better, and change the parts of us that are holding us back. What are you doing with your present? Are you so consumed in your day to day activities that you stopped looking for ways to better yourself? Have you started making excuses for why you can’t be better? Or are you looking at each day as an opportunity to become a better version of you? 

Don’t waste the gift you were given. Wake up every morning and write a chapter you are proud  to have in the novel of your life. Don’t allow what has happened to determine what you do now. Rise above your struggles, overcome your hurdles, and meet challenges face to face. Determine within yourself to become better. Don’t wait till it’s too late. After all, our end is never known. Make each day count!  

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Influence (Part 2)

Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Stan Toler wrote, “Good leaders know that more is accomplished by empowering others than by commanding them.” Chuck Swindoll stated, “Anyone who influences others is a leader.” Bottom line, all leaders are influencers, and since we all influence others, we are all leaders. As Jocko Willink noted, “If you are a human being and you interact with other people, you are a leader.”

The question you need to ask yourself is, “As a leader, how am I influencing others?”. What kind of influencer are you for the rest of your team? Do your actions and words create a positive influence for your people? When you come face to face with strangers, what kind of influence do you have on them? These are important questions to ask, as we strive to better ourselves and our leadership.

When we come to the understanding that we are all leaders, and that our actions and words have power to influence others, then what we do and what we say should be considered carefully. In James’s epistle, he wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. Out of the same mouth comes praises and cursing.” We must take heed of everything that comes out of our mouth. Our words have the power to bring death or life. In the words of Toby Mac, “So speak life; to the deadest darkest night. Speak life; when the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why. Look into the eyes of the broken-hearted. Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, you speak love, you speak life.” 

We have the power to influence others in either a positive or negative way. This isn’t new information for any of us, but how often do we stop and think about how powerful our influence is on those around us. Words are powerful, but our actions are just as powerful if not more. The saying holds true, “Actions speak louder than words.” As the Apostle John wrote, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” We need to be men and women of our word, and the way we do that is to make our actions match our words. People will pay more attention to what we do rather than what we say. People appreciate follow through and want to see our words backed up by our actions. We must lead in a way that our words are never in question by consistently showing truth in what we say through how we act.

Actions can encompass many things, but one thing we don’t think about when it comes to actions is the simple act of how we look at others. Our facial expressions tell a story of unspoken words. Most people walk around with an indifferent, disinterested look. What do you feel more drawn to, a blank, disinterested facial expression or a welcoming, available facial expression? As an influencer, the most simple act of how we look at others can determine the kind of influence we have on others. In leadership, we need to be aware of our facial expressions. When we meet with others, talk with others, or simply walk by others, it’s important to remember to turn our disinterested, blank facial expressions into warm, welcoming ones. After all, leadership is about building relationships, and relationships start with the initial interactions we have with others.

Remember, you are a leader. You do not need a special title or position to be a leader. If you interact with people, you are a leader. Because you are a leader, you have the power of influence. Be sure that your influence promotes relationship, encouragement, and positivity. Be a person of your word, and let your actions show your words to be true. Keep yourself in check and be an influencer that encourages others to better themselves. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Influence (Part 1)

In today’s world, it’s not a question of are you being influenced, but rather by whom are you  being influenced. We are bombarded by information every day, and that information has only one goal: to influence. With social media in our pockets and numerous media outlets to watch and listen to, being influenced is a part of life. After all, we now have something called “Influencers” on social media who make their living influencing their audience. With all of the influences we encounter on a daily, hourly, and even minute by minute basis, have you stopped and asked yourself who’s influencing you?

You don’t have to be in a room full of people to be influenced. You can turn on your phone and immediately start walking the path of being influenced. With social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and so many others, being influenced is only a click away. It’s easy to pick up your phone, tablet, what have you, and start flipping through your social media accounts. Everything from politics, celebrities, music, and even cat videos are influencing us. What kind of influencers are you allowing into your life? Whose voice are you listening to the most? 

You might say that you are someone who chooses not to be influenced by anything, but in reality, humans are bent on being influenced. It started at the dawn of time with Adam and Eve being influenced by the serpent in the garden. They allowed themselves to be persuaded by sweet words, but in the end, ended up losing almost everything. If we are not careful, our circle of influence could destroy all that is good in us and cause us to lose everything that really matters. 

It is critical that we become aware of the influences we allow into our lives. We have all heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” I heard this when I was a child, but never understood what it meant. It wasn’t until I was in college that I had a full grasp of its meaning. In short, we become who we allow in our lives. If you surround yourself with selfish, self centered, and manipulative people, then that is who you will become. I was watching a video podcast the other day, and the guest on the show said, “My father told me, ‘Show me your friends, and I will tell you what type of man you will be.’” The company we keep has a direct correlation with the type of person we become. This is why the Apostle Paul quoted the Greek poet Menender in his letter to the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good character.” 

I challenge you to disconnect from the world and determine who is influencing you. If you are allowing negative, selfish, and/or self centered ideologies to infiltrate your mind and shape your thinking, you need to turn off the noises that are influencing you. You need to seek positive influence. Find the voices that encourage you to become better. Find the voices that promote selflessness, integrity and humility. Find the voices that push you to keep going when it gets hard. Choose wisely what you allow to influence you. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Picking Up The Pieces

As a leader, walking into a situation where trust and relationships have been broken and being expected to make things right can be daunting and painful.  Stepping into a situation like this means your predecessor failed at their job and responsibilities, and you have been asked to fix that which has been broken. However, picking up the pieces to rebuild comes with great opportunity and growth. Do not let the foundation that was set before you be the foundation in which you think you need to build on. 

If you are walking into a toxic leadership situation, take a moment and just observe before you take any actions or make any decisions. One of the best assets a leader can have is the ability to observe and reflect. Take pause of the situation and just observe. Instead of seeking to immediately fix things, observe your team, ask questions, and be willing to listen. Through observation and reflection you will be able to make better, more well informed decisions. You will also have a better understanding of what truly happened before you arrived. 

When you walk into a situation where you are the new leader, and the previous leader has destroyed relationships, seek to rebuild those relationships before you do anything else.The key to any leadership situation is to build relationships with your team. As the new kid on the block, your team will test you to see where you stand and what they can and can’t do with you in charge. Be prepared to be tried by your team. Do not respond with an authoritative response, rather observe, listen, and ask questions. Seek to understand your team. This doesn’t mean you give up your authority. It means you allow your authority to be seen through humility and service. Being patient will have a better outcome than being commanding and demanding. A team that is built on relationships will be stronger and more productive than a team built on authoritative dictatorship.

There is a good chance that your predecessor led with fake promises. In other words, they spoke pretty words but did little to follow up what they spoke. There is a chance that they might have seen leadership as a title or position and expected respect rather than earned the respect of the team. If this is the case, there is a good chance that your predecessor led with a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. I see this as a critical failure in leadership. Not only does this sow contempt within the team, but it places a void between leadership and the rest of the team. If you are walking into a situation where your predecessor led in this way, the best thing you can do is to never be seen behind your desk. Be among your team. Stand in the trenches with them, and again, listen and observe. Do not expect things from your team that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.

Most importantly, your team needs to know they can trust you and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to build relationships with them. Picking up the pieces from a toxic leadership situation comes with a multitude of challenges. However, the foundation that was set before you does not have to be the foundation you continue to build on. Lay a new foundation, and build a team centered environment. Serve your people with humility and respect. Listen to what they say. You might be surprised at what you hear and learn from your people. You will also be able to tell those who are willing to move forward to seek a new direction and healing apart from those who encourage the toxicity and will continue to be damaging to the team if not dealt with appropriately and professionally.  

When you have to come in and pick up the pieces from the chaos that came before, be sure to walk in willing to listen and observe with a humble spirit and a willingness to serve. My guess is that your team was never served in the first place. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

From Where Should We Lead

There are many ideas that express from which position one should lead. Some say true leadership can only occur from the front. Others say leading from the rear is what’s best. And finally, there are those who say leading from within is the most admirable form of leadership.  So which is it? From which place is it best to lead? Honestly, I believe the best answer is…all of them. Every position holds value, and leadership should never be confined to one place. Leadership should be fluid. Each position of leadership mentioned above has a purpose, and no position is more important than the other. Let’s take a moment and discuss the value in each position from which we should lead. 

Let’s begin with the position most people would claim to be the most important… leading from the front. Leadership conducted from the front can hold significant power and influence if done correctly. Firstly, frontal leadership is about leading by example. When leading from the front you are giving your people the example they should imitate. This is why frontal leadership is so powerful. At the front, you set the standard. You set the expectation for the rest of the team. Where this can potentially fall apart is when you state the expectation for others but disregard your own set of standards for yourself. It’s the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. This is when frontal leadership becomes an abuse of power. Instead of commanding how people should act, a great leader leads by example. They express the expectations and standards and then turn around and live them out. This way,  when others say, “It can’t be done,” the leadership up front proves that it can. Another potential issue of front leadership is focusing too much on where you need to be that you leave your team behind. With a forward gaze, you don’t know the struggles and issues that your team may be dealing with. It is important that leadership from the front constantly looks back to check in with their team. Don’t leave your team behind.

Let’s go to the opposite position…leadership from the rear. There is a picture circulating on the internet of a pack of wolves and where each part of the pack is located. At the front of the pack are the younger,  more youthful wolves,  the middle is filled with the older wolves,  and in the rear is the alpha, leader wolf. The alpha’s job is to protect the pack,  and he does this by watching everyone’s six (that’s military lingo for the back). It’s from the rear that other predators will sneak up and attack. In other words, rear leadership protects their people from potential dangers and problems. They always have their head on a swivel; ready to take on whatever might come for their team. Rear leadership holds a lot of responsibility. They must always be looking out for potential issues and problems that might have a negative impact on their team. They must be quick to act and strong enough to get their team moving if needed. Rear leadership gives a full view of the team and the progress that is being made. However, just like front leadership, rear leadership can be potentially harmful. It’s easy to get lazy when bringing up the rear. There’s no one watching you or pushing you to lead. It’s easy to bark commands and then sit back and do nothing. Lack of attention will lead to failure and devastation for the rest of the team. It is critical that rear leadership stays mindful, focused,  and alert. 

Finally, there is leadership from within, or leadership from the middle. This position of leadership is humbling and enlightening. How leadership thinks and acts changes when they get down in the mud with their team. Middle leadership brings a perspective that front and rear leadership miss; the perspective of the individuals within their team. Middle leadership learns about their people.  They learn their strengths and weaknesses. They learn their struggles and victories. Middle leadership is personable. The closer you get to your team the more influential you can become,  and from the middle, you can meet people where they’re at. Of course, middle leadership can be potentially dangerous as well. Leading from the middle can blind you to your leadership responsibilities. Instead of encouraging and supporting your team as you lead beside them, you will begin doing the work that your team is responsible for. When this happens, you can no longer focus on the needs of the whole team. Instead, you are focused on the work that you have taken away from your team. This alienates others, and it takes your attention away from those who matter most. As a leader in the middle, you have to be strong and keep control of your urges to want to fix it all. You need to be okay with letting people struggle and fail. This doesn’t mean you abandon them. On the contrary, this is when you come alongside your team and guide them to success. Remember, this doesn’t mean you do their work. This means you guide them in their work. In fact, you might need to take a front leadership position during this time, so that your team has an example to follow.

Leadership should never be fixated on one position. Leadership should be fluid; moving from place to place. Each position holds value and is critical to the overall well being of the team. At times, you will need to take up a front leadership position to set the standards and expectations for the rest of the team and lead by example. At other times, you might need to lead from the rear. You will need to protect your team from potential problems and issues. You might need to step in and fend off those that want to cause harm to your team. Finally, you should always seek to be in the midst of your team. Take up a middle leadership position as often as possible. Invest in your team, gain perspective, and encourage and guide your team to success. Through it all, no matter what position you take up, never forget what is most important…your team.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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