He always had a smile playing around the corners of his mouth ready to burst into that full fledged humorous smile that made others around him smile in spite of themselves. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a jaunty spring to his step. He had a gift for seeing the humor in almost any situation and was quick to point it out.
He always had a kind word for people; always encouraging others and he seemed to know when you needed it the most. He was the kind of person that caused you to become better just by being around him.
He was optimistic about the future and was always “planting trees” for the next generation. He didn’t look back, but was always looking expectantly towards the horizon.
When I was first privileged to meet him, he was already well into his 70’s and had retired from his vocational job many years before. In his 70’s he was a “younger” and more optimistic person than most 20-year olds. He had endured much and walked with a limp due to a German machine-gun bullet that had gone through both of his legs.
We both sat on the governing body of a nonprofit as volunteers and had no formal authority as individuals. Many times our meetings got quite lively if you know what I mean. Yet when that gentle man quietly started to speak, all the noise, all the fuss stopped as everyone waited to hear what he had to say. Just a few quiet words of wisdom from that man changed the direction of many meetings – in a good way.
He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, who cared for people, who cared for the truth, was passionate about the mission, and was ever looking forward. He was a leader because of who he was, not because of any title.
I miss Mr. Al and I want to be like him when “I grow up”.
“More is written about leadership than ever, but we have fewer real leaders.” I have heard this, or something similar, many times and I have often said it myself. We have seen failure after failure of high profile business, political, and other types of leaders in the news—both local and national. It gets downright depressing at times.
One thing that I have noticed is that many leadership failures come from what I refer to as “celebrity leaders.” Celebrity leaders have achieved fame as “leaders” through media infatuation, self-promotion, or because their company is unusually financially successful. Often when you dig a bit into these “great leaders” you find failed marriages, estranged children, toxic work environments, a “win at any cost” mentality that discounts the worth and dignity of people, and a litany of other things that I personally would not count as successes.
However, I have come to realize that I was looking in the wrong places for examples of good leadership. The best examples of leadership have been all around me—past and present. I remember my football coach who took a bunch of poor to mediocre athletes at a small school and turned them into a formidable team. I remember U.S. Army officers who quietly went about their business of leading well, though they did not fit the Hollywood version of military leaders. I know a couple in the Midwest who serve as community leaders working behind the scenes to help some of the poorest of the poor in a neighboring city. I remember an extraordinary woman at Texas Instruments (incidentally, she was from Mississippi) who tried not only to develop her team members but also to help them advance in the company—it was a delight being on her team.
Currently, I am working with a company whose leaders range in age from late 20s to mid-40s. They are quietly building a good business by taking care of their employees as if they were family members. They have had employees turn down offers for more money at other companies to stay because of the culture—because of the leadership.
I have worked at a company where the culture was so positive that executives took major pay cuts just to come and work in that environment. In towns and communities across this land, there are wonderful leaders making a real difference. You don’t see them on TV or on websites because these people are not concerned with fame or notoriety and they certainly don’t fit the Hollywood mold of leadership (thankfully!). You don’t see them being quoted on social media or posts about their “Top10 Secrets of Leadership” because they are unconcerned about social media and too busy getting something done to worry about the artificial worlds of Twitter, Facebook, or the like.
Discouraged about what you see in the media/social media about leadership? Then just stop for a bit and look around you and see the wonderful examples of everyday people performing acts of extraordinary leadership. You will be encouraged.
One of the popular mantra’s now is learning to say no to what we consider to be unimportant things that will hinder our “success”.
I agree to a point, but a friend reminded me that we need to learn to say yes to being selfless, to loving, serving, caring for, and helping others.
Maybe there are times we consider something as unimportant, but it actually may be life changing to someone else? I have heard it said that one revealing trait of the character of a person is if they help people that cannot help them.
Maybe there are times we do need to say yes when there is no material benefit or gain to us personally. Maybe that is when we truly begin to learn what it is to be successful – to live a life of meaning?
Is there something you need to say yes to that is not about you?
The title seems a bit odd does it not? How can your view of others affect your effectiveness?
The answer lies in a great book entitled Leadership and Self-Deception put out by the Arbinger Institute. If you don’t have this book, you need to add it to your leadership library!
One of the key observations is understanding how you view others. You can view them as one of two ways:
- Means to an end
Or as People:
- With feelings
- With dreams and hopes
- With fears and insecurities
Most importantly, when you view them as people you are also acknowledging that their hopes and fears are just as legitimate as yours.
So, how are you viewing others? As Objects or as People?
It does make a difference.
If you want a glimpse into the character of a leader, watch how they interact with the housekeeping, janitorial, or groundskeeping staff of their organization.
I enjoy reading Michael Hyatt’s blog as so many others do. In a repost today (he’s on vacation) he talks about 5 marks of an authentic leader. Theses marks are:
- Authentic leaders have insight.
- Authentic leaders demonstrate initiative.
- Authentic leaders exert influence.
- Authentic leaders have impact.
- Authentic leaders exercise integrity.
Some great points and I encourage you to read his blog for a fuller explanation of his points.
Have a great Independence Day celebration tomorrow!!