IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
The photo above depicts the way many people perceive the leadership process: complicated. But my diagram is much simpler:
It’s a mountain. True leaders function from the mountaintop. Mere bosses languish at the bottom. As if that weren’t already simplistic enough, it’s a purely binary arrangement. You’re either on the mountain, or you’re in the valley. It is the duty of every leader to spend as much time functioning at the peak as possible, though no one ever pulls it off completely. Circumstances occasionally require even the best leaders to descend Mount Olympus to mingle with the mortals, bark out a few orders, and respond to a crisis. Great leaders, however, recognize when they have ceased functioning as pinnacle leaders and become mere bosses, and they take immediate steps to return to the summit.
THE CONTRAST IS STARK
The contrast between the top of the mountain and the bottom is stark. Valley dwellers are obsessed only with outcomes, and insist on being right. They tend to be defensive, and live with a single-minded focus on the present. They bark out orders to force others to do their bidding. The true leader, however, sees beyond mere outcomes and makes certain that the processes are correct. Rather than being defensive, they are open to learning from their people and circumstances. They seek to have a long time horizon, asking constantly, “How will this affect our organization in 20 or 30 years?” Rather than seeking to force employees to do things they don’t want to do, they instead inspire employees to engage in those same behaviors, but from their own personal motivations rather than external pressures. Said another way, rather than envisioning themselves as a dogsled driver, ferociously screaming “Mush!” while cracking a whip loudly, they instead realize that they are more akin to the lead dog, pulling as hard as anyone else (hopefully harder) while showing the way.
The schedule of a valley-dweller is dictated by pressures. They often arrive at work with an empty calendar and simply wait to see what happens so that they can deal with it on the fly. They move from activity to activity based on the urgency of each task. But a pinnacle leader builds his calendar around priorities, so that he or she focuses on that which is most important, and only strays from the schedule when a situation requires an immediate response. The typical valley-boss is intent on using people to get what he (or she) wants, and takes credit for anything and everything good that happens, while laying blame at the feet of others. A great leader, on the other hand, always looks elsewhere to assign credit to team members, knowing that they will gratefully deflect it right back to the one who led the effort. Finally, a boss is someone you have to obey; a leader is someone you want to follow. Though a leader is endowed with the authority to give orders to the troops, they instead choose to ask others politely, relying on their personality and charisma to load the request with the heft of an order. Make it your goal to spend as much of your time functioning at the top of the mountain. You’ll get more done, and your people will love you for it!
Billy Riggs is a funny leadership speaker and a motivational magician. You can purchase his book, How to Become a Born Leader here. Or, use the contact form to inquire about how you can have Billy present to your group his hilarious and entertaining programs.
You can watch Billy’s 90-minute program, How to Become a Born Leader, at Seminars on Demand. Purchase the right to watch this program with your leadership team here. You can only watch it once, but you can start and stop as often as you like. Break it up into 15 minute segments and show it to your managers over 6 sessions.