MENU

What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Stay Grounded

Leaders Stay Grounded

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. During the summer, I focus on topics off the beaten leader trail. Fourth in a series of off the beaten path summer leader blogs is the importance of staying rooted. In the past three weeks, we‘ve discussed the importance of leaders having fear and asking for help and acknowledging vulnerability. In a similar vein, leaders who forget their roots lose the ability to stay connected to those they are committed to serve. This advice comes with two caveats. First, leaders need to remember their humble beginnings. Second, as leaders rise in the ranks, they should never forget those on the front lines doing the tough jobs they used to do. As servant leaders, we aim to serve first. An important measure to serving is narrowing the chasm between leaders and followers.
A March 2014 Linked In article “How an elevator ride taught me my greatest leadership lesson,” says it very well: “At that moment, I vowed as a 22-year-old accountant, that if I ever am so honored to be chosen as a leader of people, that I will never forget what it is like to be the guy on the docks at 5 a.m. loading trucks, the rep in the call center taking hundreds of calls, sometimes promoting your product and on the next call defending it, or the sales rep who is questioning if they can handle one more rejection. It is these people that are the backbone of any organization. A leader has the power to lift an entire organization to new heights with what outwardly appear to be simple gestures, or can sink it to new lows. Leadership is often won with hand-to-hand combat. A simple smile, a handshake with a simultaneous “great job on the project”, a moment to stop by someone’s cubicle and ask how their son’s little league is going; all propel people to continue to charge the hill. The void of that human compassion and acknowledgement can sink a team even quicker.”
Some of the most effective military leaders in history are those who stayed connected to their front line troops. World War II five-star General Omar Bradley was a private’s commander and his troops knew it. Similarly, General Patton – although he was seen as military royalty – had a knack for finding military traffic jams when his troops were advancing. He would ceremoniously get out of his jeep and direct traffic from the hood of his jeep, which immediately connected him to the thousands of troops who saw him as one of them. Both these generals displayed the cardinal characteristic needed of grounded a leader, and their troop’s loyalty was through the roof.
Author Bob Rosen in his September 2014 Huffington Post article, “The 6 Roots of a Grounded Warrior,” reminds us: “Traditionally, leaders have been too concerned with the wrong part of their tree – surface level qualities like behaviors or actions, instead of the roots that establish values, beliefs, experiences, emotions and thoughts that ultimately define a leader. Behaviors and actions come from within, and your principles, intentions, thoughts and emotions determine whether these actions are genuine or insincere.” To stay grounded, leaders need to stay physically and mentally healthy and socially connected.
To follow the tree analogy, as leaders grower taller in stature, they need to work harder to stay connected to their roots. Clearly, our roots give us our strength. This leadership philosophy seems reasonable, but is harder to follow in real life as physical and emotional distance from our early days creates barriers to staying grounded. In a nutshell, leaders should reach for the sky, but paradoxically, they can only touch it when they stay firmly planted to where they came from. Leaders must stay grounded to stay connected to those they lead.
“I’m always asked, ‘What's the secret to success?’ But there are no secrets. Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.” ~ Dwayne Johnson