This week, as we hold vigil on Memorial Day where we honor service members and their families for paying the ultimate sacrifice, it is appropriate to note that leaders realize that sacrifice is a necessity of effective leadership. I always maintain that leadership is a choice. There is a huge difference between a title and a responsibility. Those who choose to lead must be up to that responsibility. Indeed, those who enjoy the title but fail to give should not be called “leader.” Leaders often have perks: higher pay, offices with windows, office cars, travels and the like. But what should not be lost are the sacrifices that leaders should be willing to accept: stress, difficult decisions, and often the most difficult sacrifice…time. The highest job in the land is the President of the United States which comes with incredible perks from the White House to Secret Service to Air Force One. But the stresses of the Presidency are evident when you look at the aging that has sacrifice pictureoccurred in a short amount of time for all recent young Presidents. Leadership does come with sacrifice.
Entrepreneur Aladesuru Walter Adewale in his June 2014 Linked In article “Sacrifice is the Heart of Leadership” comments: “There is no success without sacrifice – Every person who has achieved any success in life has made sacrifice to do so. Many working people dedicate four or more years and pay millions of (dollars) to attend school to get the tools they’ll need before embarking on their career. Athletes sacrifice countless hours in the gym and on the practice field preparing themselves to perform at a high level. Parents give up much of their free time and sacrifice their resources in order to do a good job raising their children.”
Adewale makes the point that servant leadership is at the core sacrifice because servant leaders put others first: “The hearts of leadership is putting others ahead of you. It’s doing what is best for the team. For the reason, I believe that leaders have to give up their rights. As Gerald Brooks, leadership speaker and pastor says, ‘When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself.’ ” So the point of this blog is not to highlight that sacrifice is necessary because that is clear. Rather it is to remind leaders that sacrifice is part of the job and to prepare for it, to take the burdens so that followers need not. In the military, it is tradition for military leaders to not eat before the troops are served. While symbolic, the act is not lost on the followers. For leaders who use their rank to eat first or take other privileges, that point is not lost on them either.
President Nelson Mandela is emblematic of the willingness to sacrifice. Beyond his willingness to stay in prison, President Mandela chose to only serve one term, understanding that the transfer of power was critical for his South Africa to succeed. Self-sacrifice, not power, was his middle name. Simon Sinek is his February 2014 Huffington Post blog, “What Leaders Can Learn From Mandela’s Selflessness and Sacrifice” says it best: “Leadership is a service. And service comes with sacrifice. The sacrifices one person is willing to make for the good of others can take many forms. The giving of one’s time and energy is certainly a sacrifice. Unlike money, time and energy are nonredeemable. Once we spend it, there is no getting it back.” Sinek compares leaders to light bulbs in that 60 watt bulbs give us a certain amount of light and 100 watt bulbs give out much more – more energy equals more leadership. Energy must be given to light the way. Leadership Spokane’s catch phrase is “Leadership Lights the Way.” Yes it does, but only when leaders remember that light comes from sacrifice. Leadership is both a choice and a sacrifice. Leaders sacrifice.
The heart of good leadership is sacrifice. ~ John Maxwell