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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Labor

Leaders Labor

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This week our adult Leadership Spokane Class of 2018 commences our flagship program. As it does, and with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, it is important to remember a bedrock principle for any aspiring leader — work hard, play hard. I have covered several times in this leader blog series, the importance of leisure time for leaders. Equally important though is the simple truth that leaders owe it to their followers to work hard. I remembered a maxim from going to the school with the Army that headquarters (i.e. leadership) was expected to do two-thirds of the necessary work and the units, one-third. While idealistic in theory and the levels of work are judged by the eye of the beholder, the principle is certainly a just one. Leaders are afforded many perks not the least of which includes higher pay, better accommodations and other privileges. To be deserving of these of these benefits, it is natural to expect leaders to put out their best to earn them.
When discussing servant leadership, the frame of reference is generally that of the leader and the natural aspiration to serve first. Like most things in life, there are always both sides of the street, and we should also consider those who choose to be led. Followers will be more loyal and enthusiastic for leaders who are motivated and happy to shoulder the load.
I am a big advocate for senior leaders to allow junior employees to shadow. There are multiple benefits for this simple act among them the value of mentoring, teaching decision-making and other demonstrated leadership values. Another central benefit is to allow young employees to see first-hand how busy senior leadership and management is. Misconceptions are easy to come by in the workplace and a very common one is the boss is behind a big door taking it easy. Successful leaders rarely are taking it easy, but the belief exists nonetheless.
I often emphasize that leadership is a choice — it is voluntarily by and large. Our current Spokane Police Chief, Chief Meidl, several years ago asked for a demotion because he was not comfortable in his present position of serving the former Chief of Police. While extraordinary for leaders to take a demotion, it can be done. For the majority who continue to lead, the yoke of leadership is heavy so leaders should be strong enough to accept the responsibility and move ahead through their hard works.
Up to this point in the blog, I am certain a lot of affirmative head shaking is occurring because the truth that leaders should labor makes sense. A final warning for leaders to heed is the awareness that complacency is the biggest challenge all leaders face. In the first months of leading a team, new leaders have an adrenaline that leads to demonstrated good works and momentum. After time, and as experience is gained, that adrenaline wanes and leaders can easily fall into the rut of enjoying the new perks, but losing the momentum. This is a major obstacle for the U.S. military where units are always expected to stay cutting-edge. To combat this, the U.S. military generally has commanders rotate every two years so as to feed off new leader adrenaline all the time. Complacency is the enemy of many things and dulling hard-working leaders is an exponential effecter for its detrimental impact on followers and organizations alike.
The adage “It is better to give than receive” rings true so often and in a new book “Give and Take,” by accomplished business academic Adam Grant, demonstrates this in spades. His well-received book articulates in great detail how business leaders are rewarded themselves by creating success around them and intentionally cultivating the successes of others. He argues for 10 “actions for impact,” among them – running reciprocity rings internally in organizations, helping to craft everyday jobs around the concept of giving, ramping up positive feedback in the ranks and seeking help more often. Grant also suggests leaders do an act of good once daily for 30 days to really reinforce the standard of giving in their personal lives. I truly embrace Grant’s philosophies because it epitomizes the value of servant leadership. In serving others…in giving….we exponentially raise the effectiveness of everything in touch. The final golden nugget that Grant highlights is we help ourselves emotionally and otherwise in the process! Working hard for others then becomes a win-win…priceless. So with Labor Day behind us, it is an important time to remember that leaders must work hard to truly be worthy of the title “leader.” In doing so, they help themselves too. Yes, leaders should labor!
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task of hand” ~ Vince Lombardi