My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #1

I have been in leadership roles most of my adult life. From leading Marines to leading churches, the privilege and responsibility offering guidance and instruction to is one I am comfortable with and enjoy. Positively, I have experienced solid and effective leadership throughout my life. I watched how these leaders interacted with people, motivated them to want to do better, and cared about the individual. I remember thinking these qualities were worthy of emulation. Negatively, I have experienced anemic and ineffective leadership along the way. I watched how people were discouraged, berated, and frustrated by these so-called leaders and remember thinking people deserve better.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing the ten leadership lessons I have learned and that have been reinforced in my life. These lessons have shaped/are shaping who I am as a leader today.

Leadership Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Within any organization (secular or spiritual), each person is accountable to someone else. There is an employee/volunteer and there is a boss/department leader. There are some who allow who they are on paper to effect how they lead and manage. An effective leader does not have to continually remind those they are leading that they are, in fact, the leader. Phrases such as “Don’t forget who is running this place”, “I’m in charge”, or “Just do it, I’m the boss” are foreign to the one who knows that people follow what they see modeled. A leader whose actions genuinely demonstrate care, compassion, and consistency will not have to constantly remind people to follow them. They will want to do so because of what they see. It was former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said, “Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to remind people you are, you aren’t.”

In 2013, Tom Hanks starred in the movie, Captain Phillips. It was the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. A critical scene in the movie occurs when the pirates gain entry to the bridge. The exchange between the lead hijacker and Captain Phillips demonstrates this leadership principle.

Somali Pirate: “Relax, everything going to be okay. Look at me.”

Captain Richard Phillips: “Sure”

Somali Pirate: “Look at me”

Captain Richard Phillips: “Sure”

Somali Pirate: “I’m the captain now.”

When a confident and caring leadership environment is created within an organization, people will want to follow, not because they must, but because they see value and credibility in the leadership given to them and will want to follow.

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