Becoming a new type of leader

Sam is a former Navy Seal (in the US, it is one of the most elite of the fighting forces we have…they are a special breed).  And Sam has always thought people ought to believe what he tells them – because he told them!  It would be so much faster if they would just do what he told them.  It sounds a little like command and control, doesn’t it. Well, Sam has been playing a Bigger Game in his company for the past year.  There is a lot of background to what that means and how they learned to play their game differently – if you have questions just drop a note to Sara.

Back to Sam.  His challenge is to invite parts of his company to join him in a new way of conducting business.  They have always worked on their own and now Sam is part of a team that creates working alliances with other companies like Cisco and IBM.  You would think the sales people in his company would jump at the chance to work with companies like that!! After all, their offers wold be so much bigger with players like those on their team.  Not so much.  The pull of the status quo is powerful – even if it is not working.  And telling those people they were wrong and getting frustrated was not getting much traction, either.

So Sam quieted his urge to tell people what to do and began to ask to find out what compelled them instead.  He learned a lot more about therm, their business and priorities and began to appreciate the position of those people who weren’t rushing out to follow him.  Before, he had been just following his own urges, judging their lack of responsiveness and trying to force them into action…and making no progress.  When he engaged as a full partner, not the manager -becoming aware of their needs and values, Sam was able to get curious and merge their wants with his.  His new behavior grew out of that awareness and appreciation.  He showed up very differently.  He was able to meet his global teams where they were, point them to the new future and invite them begin to move together.  The team has responded and that which was stuck, is now moving and has become a source of celebration!

And he is amazed and delighted.   Sam has become a new type of leader.

Playing Big – Failure is Always a Possibility

I was with a group of friends tonight talking about leadership.  One in our group is one of the bravest people I know.  He was the driving force behind the creation of a substance abuse recovery facility in the southwest.  The facility is fabulous.  After the dedication he learned that it will fall to someone else to run and administer his dream.

He should be insulted, destroyed, discouraged, disheartened.  Right?  Nope.  He realized that circumstances and others’ decisions will move him out and move someone else in.  He also knows that the work he did was what was needed and impeccable.  He is regrouping to begin his next good work.

So, let us pause a moment and reflect on what has occurred.  By the way, let’s look at how he is responding, not what occurred to determine it was fair.  My friend is called by a compelling purpose and is answering that call.  That’s why he invested his dreams and his best work into this project.   People and circumstances have  stepped into his path and told him his work there is complete.  (You have to believe me that the message was clear and final.)

That’s where his choice occurred.  He could let the circumstance dim his hope and create questions about his future.  Or he could stay focused on what compels him – what he believes he is here to do.

He is choosing to lean into his compelling purpose.  He acknowledges that the new center is ideal and will deliver a lot of good to people in need.  He also knows it is not his to run.  Rather than getting lost in the “what might have beens” He is choosing to check back in with his compelling purpose and look for  what is next for him.

Where is leadership in this?  It is in impeccability.  A great leader focuses on the bigger game – and understands he is one of the players – not the only one.  A great leader knows when to move aside and let others take the lead.  My friend is generous and gracious as responsibilities are handed off – making sure that those left have every advantage of his experience.  Finally, a great leader measures success by what is accomplished, not by the kudos or the titles.

My friend leaves his dream project knowing he has given his very best and delivered what was promised.  He has tapped back into his passion and beginning to dream again. Leadership doesn’t guarantee a future, it creates from nothing and from everything.