My share, your share…

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”

John Maxwell

If it is never your fault then you are not a leader. If you take all the credit, then you are not a leader.

I can’t think of anything that I have ever accomplished unilaterally and without help from someone else. What’s more, anything that has been accomplished has been made better because someone else contributed to the end product.

If you want to build trust you have to own it when things go wrong and give away the credit when things go right. Then people will trust you. Then you are a leader…

Leadership is…

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Colin Powell

This is one of, if not my absolute, favorite leadership quotes of all time. It is definitely in my top 5 list. I know that I have used it in my daily quotes before, probably several times in the now 22 years that I have been sending out a daily message, but I looked and I haven’t used it over the past two years. So what better time than now to bring out an old favorite?

There is so much richness and wisdom in this message. To me it isn’t about the fact that people are bringing you their problems, in fact that might not be a good thing at all…

It is about whether or not your team views you through the lens of being able to help and add value to them and bring perspective and insight that would help them be more effective in solving their problems.

It is about whether or not you as a leader have created a culture and atmosphere where those that you lead and influence know that you care, deeply care, about them as a person and about their problems, challenges and successes.

To be able to lead you must be deeply introspective and self-aware if you want to grow in influence and as John Maxwell states, “Leadership is influence” (also one of my top 5 quotes of all time).

It makes me think of a number of questions that are needed to get to the heart of what is at play for anyone that is in a leadership role, whether officially designated or not. Here are some of the questions that come to mind.

Are people bringing me their challenges? Why or why not?

Am I growing, intentionally growing, my skills and talents so that I can be additive to those that I serve? Do I understand what they need from me as a leader and am I going out and purposefully growing my expertise in order to best serve them?

Have I made it safe as a leader for those I influence not to have all the answers? How or how not? Is it safe for them to bring me their problems or challenges, not because I can provide all the answers but because I can help them think through the best solution and help them guard against any blind spots?

Do I actively listen and pay attention to see if those I lead and influence are coming to me seeking input and advice? Am I constantly and continually scanning my environment to see if I am providing value to them and helping them? If no one is seeking then do I know it and am I working to find out why not?

Does my team know that I genuinely care about them as individuals, about their problems, about their challenges, about their opportunities? Not in a “I hope they know I care” kind of way but in an explicitly stated and reinforced through actions kind of way. Am I walking the talk on a daily basis that perpetuates my care and concern and when I fail, and I will fail, am I addressing that head on with them?

These questions help me to continually refine my leadership as I seek to expand my skills and capabilities. They also address another John Maxwell axiom that is a favorite of mine, “Are you really leading, or are you just taking a walk?” (I have included a link to John’s Blog here as it has such beautifully rich content and perspective).

As mentioned above “Leadership is influence.” The essential meaning of this quote is wrapping up the “how” that influence is built and delivered…

Leadership is influence…

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts; it is about one life influencing another.”

John C. Maxwell

The most important thing is how you treat people. It is all about you treat others. Leadership is about influence. Period.

The minute you depend on title, position, or flow chart, you have lost real leadership influence. At the end of the day it is more than just the output of the effort that matters. It is about helping others find success…

Magical momentum…

“Momentum solves 80% of your problems.”

John C. Maxwell

The energy you feel when you are riding a huge wave of momentum is contagious and powerful. The key to maintaining momentum is to put as much effort into the next step or action as you did in all the steps that built the current wave. If you relax and take your foot off the gas, the momentum will go away. Never ever slow down because with intense focus and action you build momentum, and with momentum you win. Momentum is magical…

Embrace discomfort…

“If a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable it’s probably not really a change.”

John Maxwell

I love the way this quote challenges how I think about change. How often do we truly seek to be uncomfortable? It is easy to talk about change and the need for change but are we truly embracing the the opportunity to be uncomfortable? Changing ourselves and our behaviors can be hard and I have found that often people change just enough to check the box saying that they did it. When this happens it doesn’t take much to slip back into old habits. It doesn’t take much for the change that was being made to just slip away.

How uncomfortable do you have to be with a current situation or circumstance to make the challenge and discomfort of change a better alternative? How can you lower this hurdle rate to smash through barriers and implement true change faster and with more vigor and therefore prevent yourself from slipping back into old habits or behaviors?

In a world of constant change and disruption then a feeling of discomfort is the new normal. We must be continually challenging ourselves to grow and evolve and pushing through the natural tendencies we have to maintain the status quo. We must be comfortable being continually uncomfortable if we truly want to grow.

Encourage change…

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.”

John C. Maxwell

Sometimes it is the simplest things at just the right moments that make all the difference in the world. I still have a handwritten note that I received over 20 years ago from the SVP who was responsible for the division I worked in. The fact that he took the time to notice and acknowledge me made all the difference in the world to a very green and naive leader who was learning what real leadership was all about. That note has stayed with me for many moves and transitions and is one that I treasure not for what it says but for what it represents. True appreciation and encouragement from one human being to another expressed in a manner that was genuine and humble. That one simple thing has had a profound impact on me and my life.

I am sure that all of us have those great “encouragement moments” that created a marked impact on our lives. But what if they weren’t there? What if instead of encouragement we had received negative reinforcement or worst yet, nothing at all? The world would be a very different place.

We are all going to fail multiple times in our lives. Heck, we are going to fail daily if we are truly trying hard enough. Sometimes all we need is one person who recognizes not who we are today, but who we have to potential to become and helps us to see that potential. That is what I received 20+ years ago via a simple handwritten note.

Invest daily…

“Doing the right thing daily, compounds over time.”

John Maxwell

The impact and importance of this goes far beyond what you can see right in front of you today.

It shows up in the example you set for others, the things they then say or do, the decisions they make. The example you set for your children and the men and women they grow up to become. Doing the right thing daily has the opportunity to be a catalyst well beyond your time here on this earth. You might never recognize the return on the investment yourself, but the legacy you leave might be recognized for generations.

Choosing not to do the right thing also compounds daily… But it is a negative value proposition…

Surrender in order to learn…

“Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”

John Maxwell

When I read this quote I immediately thought of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I haven’t read this book in a number of years but it has long been one of my favorites. Habit #5 from the book is “Seek first to understand, then be understood” and it is probably one of my absolute favorites. I know that I use this phrase all the time when communicating with others about the importance of digging deep and trying to understand any situation.

I think the same principle either from that habit or from this quote applies when trying to understand oneself and our behavior. What are the deep questions that you ask yourself in challenging situations or even when you are just trying to grow and learn? How do you slow down to ensure that you are really thinking the right things through?

There is a key thought outlined in the quote above that is so important and bears further rumination. “Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”  I think that is the aspect that so many folks, most certainly including myself, miss out on. We are listening (or at least we tell ourselves we are) but we are listening to find fault, or to prepare our side of the argument. Research shows that most people are simply listening to respond, not understand, and certainly not with judgment. How do you ensure that you have suspended judgment so that you can truly understand?

Maybe it is as simple as this. To understand, to truly understand without making judgments, one must surrender the need the be right. Much easier said than done of course however think through how liberating that could be when really getting deep into a topic or situation. I believe doing that is what enables the first part of this quote to happen. If you do this well, you earn the right to be heard…

Reasons vs. Excuses…

“It is easier to move from failure to success than from excuses to success.”

John C. Maxwell

Excuses are devoid of action.  They reflect a lack of accountability for results which becomes a fertile ground for failure to take root.  The only way to break free from failure is to understand the reason that something failed and then create an action plan that you own and are accountable for.  The plan still might not work, but there can’t be any excuses, you have to own the outcomes.

When it comes to delivering results the difference between simply understanding a reason something happened, and making an excuse, is accountability and action.  

How much do you care?

“If you want to be the best leader you can possibly be, no matter how much or how little natural leadership talent you possess, you need to become a serving leader.” 

John C. Maxwell

How easy it can be to forget this when working to accomplish some task.  The results take priority over people and the focus is on what is getting done, not who you are serving and how it gets done.  

Servant leadership requires more than lip service.  It means more than results from some project or initiative.  It means to serve others.  Period.  It doesn’t mean easy, or soft leadership.  It means that you have to genuinely care about those that you serve and make sure that they are empowered for success.  Sometimes this means that they are not in the right role, or even the right organization.  That is okay.  Because if you truly care, and serve them, you want them to be the most successful that they can be.  Which requires genuine care, consistent support, candor, and feedback.  

You have to care about your team more than you care about yourself and they will know this based on how you serve them.  

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