Great leadership is something learned and developed. Great leaders see beyond the rough edges of personality, beyond the flaws and frail egos, and try to reach a persons spirit and draw out the greatness in their soul. Great leaders are aware of their own rough edges and use this understanding to refine and enhance their own teachable spirit; free to be shaped and changed by the deeper purpose they serve. Great leaders encourage a teachable spirit in others, consistently pointing to the greater vision each person serves, and consistently celebrating the changes in the other along the way. Great leaders never loose sight of what it means to learn, and what it means to become. Great leaders are prepared to share knowledge, putting others before them, and enjoying the other’s successes.
Had the opportunity of several breakfast meetings with Harold Sells, retired CEO of Woolworth. Many consider Harold to be a great leader in business and a greater leader in life. One of his life lessons for great leadership is summed up in a question he posed to me, “Do each of the members of the board know you genuinely care about them, their lives, and their work, and are you giving the leadership all of the credit?” Great leaders put the people and their families before themselves. At Harold’s birthday celebration this past year, he was asked to say a few words about his life. Many of us anticipated being regaled with great stories of meeting presidents and world leaders, of traveling the globe, or his behind the scenes stories of winning at Woolworth. I was inspired as he only spoke about the others in the room. He spoke about his family, friends, and co-workers and all of their accomplishments. He celebrated, by name, everyone else and what they meant to him personally. Great leaders genuinely care about the other, and the other knows it.
Michelangelo once said about sculpting, “I saw an angel in the stone, and I carved to set it free.” Great leadership has confidence in the other to mature and transform inspiring a freedom for them to become who they truly are, not what others think they should be.
This posture of great leadership having a teachable spirit, putting others before themselves, and inspiring freedom for the other to become who they are, is a critical foundation leaders need to stand up and lead.
As you prepare for your day ask yourself these three questions: What will I learn today, Who will I praise and encourage, Who needs my leverage to become who they really are?
Dr. Tom Lobaugh