Living as a Leader

What Matters (and what doesn’t)…

In light of this past year I’ve been asking myself these questions – What should really matter to leaders?  And what should not?  What do we expect of leaders?  What should we expect of ourselves?

Here’s my conclusions:

What Matters…

  • Reality. What a leader believes to be true, the way the see and understand the world matters. It’s from their reality that all else flows from the leader.  So, the question for every leader is this – “is my reality true?” Sincerity and conviction can never justify or replace a false reality.
  • Motives.  Why leaders do what they do is absolutely critical.  There are noble and selfless motives. There are also destructive and selfish motives. Too often we believe that motives don’t matter just outcomes.  The truth is motives will drive long-term outcomes – either good or bad, so they matter.
  • Words.  What a leader says, the tone they use, the timing of their words matter.   Also, silence matters, and often says more than their words.
  • Actions. Actions are like words.  The actions by a leader – when, how, and with what motives –  matter. The lack of action also matters – it  can say as much as any action taken.
  • Posture. The posture a leader takes – one of pride or humility, of digging in or openness, protecting one’s reputation first or admitting when one is wrong, is foundational to leadership. Posture, reality, and motive ultimately drives a leader’s words and actions.
  • People. People matter most.  They are more important than strategy, philosophy, victory, success.  Leadership is about loving people, believing in people, and respecting people, especially those who look, think or live differently that us.

What shouldn’t matter…

  • Personal Brand.  Leaders must care more about the people they lead than their own reputations or brand. They must have causes larger than themselves. They can not be the cause.
  • Popularity. Leaders must not allow popularity, affirmation, the cheer of the crowd to drive their words and actions.  Leaders must do what’s right and best for those they lead and the cause they believe in, even at the cost of their popularity.
  • Personal Gain.  Seems obvious, but leaders must not allow personal profit (of any kind) to be their motive for their actions and words.  As a matter of fact, great leaders are willing to pay a personal cost for the greater gain of their people and the cause they lead.

One final word on what matters – Accountability.  Leaders must be accountable for their reality, motives, words, actions, posture, and how they treat people.  This means leaders can not blame others for their mistakes, failures, or losses. Instead great leaders take responsibility and own up to them.  Leaders must also own the consequences, including unintended consequences of their leadership. No personal accountability, no true leadership.

In 2021, let’s expect more from our leaders and more from ourselves as leaders.  Let’s not waste this moment by getting stuck in it, but instead, intentionally grow as people and as leaders from what we’ve learned, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve experienced.

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