sometimes quality people follow me and i actually cry and whisper “i’m so sorry you’re going to regret this”
The quote I open with made me think about leading in business … specifically about me as a leader and what I think about those who I was fortunate enough to lead.
If you go online you can find a million articles about what makes a great leader … heck … on how to be a good leader.
That said. In general … if you have to go online to learn how to lead and be a leader … well … you are not a leader.
I loved leading. I loved being the captain of a team. I loved being the pilot of a ship <pick your trite metaphor here>. But I never assumed that simply because I had a title or was selected to lead that everyone would want to actually follow. This gets trickier once you arrive at some high falutin’ title and responsibility where you cannot hand pick everyone on your team. But maybe it is prior to that high falutin’ position where you earn the most valuable lesson.
I think any leader worth half a shit is humbled by the quality of people who choose to follow.
I think any leader worth half a shit is worried those people will regret that decision at some point.
I can only comment on this topic from my own perspective.
I do know for sure that it doesn’t matter what type of leader you are <1> if no one follows you will get nowhere fast, and <2> if the wrong people are following you … you will get nowhere fast.
I will admit.
One of the hardest things in the world in business to do is to find people with the same intentions that you have. This becomes important because at some point leading demands motivating in some form or fashion. Me? I don’t think I was ever particularly good at motivating individuals one at a time. The good news with having that weakness is that leading that way is incredibly time intensive so I never did it.
I learned to simply focus on my message. Maybe more importantly … I focused on an ‘attitude’ more than any specific ‘desired behavior.’ I kind of figured that, if I could encourage a certain type of attitude, the behavior would follow. A lot of leaders hated that belief … and still do. They prefer established certain types of behavior and model their leadership within that construct. I did not and it permitted those who chose to follow me to follow a variety of paths … walk in their own shoes … and, yet, still walk within the same attitude construct with the same intentions that I had.
As a result I have worked for and with amazing companies, products & services and people.
I don’t think I did it through any ‘big personality’ <I have seen and met charismatic leaders and I ain’t one> but I always seem to have ‘my community of followers’ who were incredibly loyal to me … and I remained incredibly loyal to them.
Somehow this all permitted me to leverage the naturally scant resources any leader has <time, energy, money, attention> to not only have an effective team & organization but also attract others to come by and join this merry & mad group of followers. Through it all I always looked to create some convergence of my own conviction with the wants & needs of the individuals … and this included even the individuals who I were fairly sure were quite hesitant to follow my lead <and, yes, they exist with any leader>.
I will also admit that I never really thought much about purposefully sharing any real substantive value to the people who elected to follow nor did I attempt to purposefully share any substantive value to people I wanted to have join this merry band. Huh? <say what?>. I never thought about trying to create some compelling message or try and be compelling … I solely focused on my convictions, my attitude & beliefs and … well … I imagine I thought of it as “I have a campfire, come sit down … and I hope you stay <if you want>” and hoped like hell that someone actually wanted to follow that conviction, attitude & set of beliefs <and I never assumed anyone did and was pleasantly surprised when someone did>.
I was always humbled if someone decided to stay and warm their hands on the campfire.
I never studied on how to be a leader. I never read any books on leadership.
My only mantra was “would I want to follow me” and maintain the behavior and attitudes which would seem like they would make me feel like I was treated with dignity, respect and value <and be my version of interesting & meaningful>.
I certainly wanted to be dynamic beyond my own purpose <and still do> and kind of built that into how I wanted to be as a leader. I am not sure this was representing some grand vision or ‘manifesto’ or even some ‘purpose-driven’ type flag for everyone to follow … but it was more than some personal goals and raises and basic desires of ‘coming into work every day and doing what you need to do.’
I never did anything calculated in my leadership. It almost always resided in attitude.
And I think it allowed me to be me and to let those who decided to follow to emerge in their own way beyond simply daily desires to get shit done.
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.
Conduct a personal assessment and ask yourself, ”Would I follow me?”
I absolutely buy the fact that a leader has to give people something they want or need. I don’t care if it is ideas or purpose or productivity <outcomes>. I just don’t buy the fact you can purposefully sit down and create it.
Sure. You can hone what you know you should be doing but you cannot learn what you should be doing. I am also not sure you can always purposefully create the challenges which create interest as well as establish some north star meaningful purpose … which we all know is what someone who elects to follow thrives on.
I always felt like if you created the right attitude your job as a leader was more of a herder than a creator or a motivator. And I always felt like ‘passion’ was overrated <albeit many people commented that they saw moments of passion from me … personally … I thought it was simply moments that I focused on something>.
I absolutely understand that passion is contagious but I always worried that passion can easily fade. I always felt like I owed people who elected to follow more than passion.
When your employees sense that you have a deeper conviction, not passion, for what you do I always believed they got the sense that what they’re doing is a little more worthwhile. It was not that everyone felt like they were on some path towards something bigger but rather they were permitted some moments in which maybe they could not only be better versions of themselves but also maybe, just possibly with a little luck & fate, be part of something greater than ‘oneself’.
I don’t think I was, or am, a particularly humble individual … but I certainly was always humbled that someone, even one person, chose to follow my lead.
And I know I read somewhere that being humble in business doesn’t equate to not taking credit for your work or ideas but rather taking responsibility for your mistakes as well as the mistakes of your team … and acknowledging when someone following you can do something better than you.
With that definition I guess I could attach ‘humble’ to me but it does not wear well. I think it is just responsible leadership and it doesn’t need any label.
Leadership is certainly not for the faint of heart. Responsibility is always a burden … and if you are responsible for people the burden increases … and … if you are responsible for people who have actually CHOSEN to follow you … well … the burden increases exponentially. But that ‘not for the faint of heart’ is not really courage … it’s more about some fashion of fearlessness. I am pretty sure I wasn’t a particularly great leader. But what I did do is breed a sense of fearlessness in those who followed me.
In the end.
I can really only say one thing.
If you want to lead … you do what you do … you have some strong conviction and attitude <beyond ‘perfection’> … and if people follow they follow. I imagine at some point I said … well … fuck it. I am going to live the way I want to live Life … live business the way I want to live business … and if that mean I am leading? Great.
If it means some people follow? Great.
If it means some people think I am full of shit ? Not so great … but I will live with it.
If it means some people will run away from where I am going? Also not so great … but as long as they don’t think I am fucking nuts … I can live with it.
I did everything in my power, every minute of everyday to insure anyone who elected to follow me never regretted that decision. And I never regretted that choice nor the responsibility that came along with it.
But what I really learned, and know, is that having followers who have chosen to follow you, while humbling, is the best & greatest burden you can have.
Because one of the hardest things in the world to do is to find people with the same intentions that you have. And when you do? Whew. That is the reason you lead. It is maybe the best part of leadership.
“Life has a practice of living you, if you don’t live it.”