Our role as leaders is to serve and hopefully make a difference.I often tell the story of my early days in business. I worked in an environment in the 60s and 70s that was pretty autocratic. You were expected to do what you were told at work and to follow orders. Your opinion or ideas were not sought or desired. Leadership was thought of as a position and title and not as a responsibility.
I grew up that way and could not wait to get into a big leadership job so that I could order people around and make them do what I wanted them to do. For a long time, I thought that I was smarter than everyone else and that people needed to listen to me and do what I said. I was not very interested in their point of view.
Looking back, I know that I was a great manager . . . but not a great leader.
Eventually I learned what the difference was, and I slowly but surely learned how to be a better and better leader; and over time, I changed.
I am really a reborn leader. I have drastically changed my ways over the last 23 years. Those first 15 years, I was a great manager. The last 23 years I have moved up the scale year by year by being a better and better leader—and I still have a long way to go to be as good as I could be.
The point here is that you can get better at whatever you put your mind to.
Is it easy? No . . . but it is not hard either! It does take time and focus, and you have to be clear with yourself about what you are trying to become and what exactly you are trying to improve in.
I am glad that I went through this change over the years because now I am pretty sure that the church will be full when I die, and my grandchildren will be impressed with the number of people who come to my funeral. The way I was leading in the 60s and 70s would have made the attendance at my final presentation quite small.
I get a paycheck every week, and there is no emotion attached to it. Well, not exactly. I do cry sometimes when I see the deductions for taxes and other things, but there is no human emotion other than that. Occasionally, though, I receive a letter or a phone call from people I have worked with in the past; and they will tell me that the reason for writing or calling is to tell me about the great job they have . . . and they want to tell me that they think part of the reason they have that position is because of the way that I lead them 15 years ago. They usually go on to tell me the story of what I did that they will never forget and how it helped them develop into who they are today. I usually don’t even remember the examples that they recite to me. They were little things to me but big things to them.
Unlike my paycheck, when I sit and look at a letter like that or listen to a phone call, I do become emotional and feel good about helping someone. This is a special kind of emotion that cannot be explained in words. You have to experience it to completely and fully understand its power. It is very similar to when your children grow up and tell you how much they appreciate the way that you raised them and how now, looking back, they understand that some of those tense moments in their development were for them.
If you love your children, you will give them your full focus when they need it from you . . . and you will make sure that they are learning right from wrong . . . and you will be very focused on their development, especially in the areas of honesty, integrity, self-esteem, and self-confidence. If you respect your fellow employees and you are their leader, then you will do the same for them.
You will make sure that they have all of the tools they need to perform their role; but most of all, you will make sure that they are being developed and trained. You will be especially sensitive and careful to build high self-esteem and self-confidence in each and every one of them to the best of your ability.
When you approach leadership with these things in mind, you will long be remembered as someone who made a difference! . . . Lee