Leaders work on a daily basis in ways that those who are partners rarely have a complete understanding. While we succeed through full partnership and collaboration, we are often working years ahead visioning and making the dominoes fall in the interim with our partners. We are most fortunate when everyone sees the same picture and moves in synchrony towards an outcome that is of long-term benefit.
Along the way, we lead by working with people, sharing what team members are able to receive. Some are far more developed than others and are like sponges who can absorb, process, grow by great leaps, and magnify their contributions and gifts time after time. It is those moments of watching people exceed their expectations of themselves, and thereby the goals of the organization, that are most gratifying. It’s like watching something that was already firing on all cylinders break the sound barrier. The energy consumption is minuscule compared to the propulsion that is provided to everyone around them. In the end, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Along the way, there are partners who see, accept, and work towards the vision, and there are always those who don’t. Sometimes, they hide behind half-facts, emotions, or refusal to step into what is unquestionably the direction that the rest of the world has already gone. Those moments are sad, because not only does the pace of the least receptive hold back an entire team, but it does not change the inevitable; just the pace.
Then there are the days, when unexpectedly, someone who does not hold a leadership title emerges clearly as a leader. They see opportunity and burst forth on the scene with ideas, resources, and passion. When leaders by title choose not to get in their way, but put them in the spotlight, encouraging their risk-taking and guiding them forward, they are immediately uplifted personally and provide a role model for others to follow. In that moment, every other partner of that individual has the opportunity to seize their moments, and a momentum is created for everyone. Organizations have to be ready when missions take off and people in greater and greater numbers step into leadership roles.
Often, leaders by title, have no idea how their openness to this, and their role modeling for others, affects people’s lives. I remember returning to visit a staff I had led years later, and an older woman came up to me and shared that because she had watched me eat purposefully to fuel my body’s health and had heard me discuss exercising regularly, she had changed her life. I had absolutely no idea at the time that she was watching me or my behavior.
Since then, there have been countless times when former staff have thanked me for influencing their lives. Leaving a staff of partners is always one of the hardest things to do, because of the bond that is created from trying to do extraordinary work together. I have been blessed with the experience of every staff I have left crying – both male and female – an outpouring of emotion that has meant so much to receive from those you have served and with whom you have partnered. Leadership is hard, challenging, a gift, a blessing, and an honor. To have others trust you that you will work with them for the best interests of the joint mission is a treasure to be carefully nurtured.
For leaders, there is nothing more humbling or powerful than when it comes back to you.
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