OK, before you start thinking this is the blog you need to read to learn how to be a power player, I just need to warn you: This blog is about peace, not power.
Over the course of my career I have encountered a number of leaders, CEO’s and others, who run multi-million dollar- hundreds and thousands of people-sized organizations, and very successful ones I might add. In the last week I have come to understand something very important about some of these leaders. They possess a special attribute or gift that makes them stand above the crowd.
One CEO in particular comes to mind. Let’s call him Michael. I had heard a lot about Michael from someone who has known him for years. I heard about the success of Michael’s company, how he lived his life outside of work, and the positive impact he is having on the people around him. I had an opportunity to meet Michael this past weekend.
I was expecting him to be someone who commanded a crowd, whom the whole room listened to when he spoke, whose presence in a room was palpable. Up until that time, these were the attributes of power that I associated with leaders, especially at the CEO level. Frankly, I was expecting Michael to be somewhat arrogant and to have a big ego. You know, the “larger than life” type.
When I finally met him, I discovered he is the complete opposite of what I was expecting. He is a mild-mannered, low- profile, behind-the-scenes kind of leader. He’s the kind of leader who runs from the spotlight in order to serve the people around him, the people on his team. I have discovered that Michael and other leaders like him get their power by being the kind of people who others want to follow.
Yes, these leaders are smart, educated, driven, focused and bottom-line oriented. But more importantly, they understand the importance of meeting the needs of others. For example, this weekend I observed Michael seeking out a newcomer amongst the group of people that were at his house. He spent time with the newcomer, helping this person feel comfortable and showing him around. Michael did not think serving another person was beneath him. This small act is much more meaningful than a big strategic business decision; it helped the newcomer feel connected, part of
As leaders, we need to always–and I mean always–be thinking about and concerned about the people. Organizations are made up of people. If people are encouraged and feel like they fit in, they can achieve tremendous accomplishments.
Looking at Michael, I thought, He has it figured out. He knows that being real with people is the only way to be.
So what does this anecdote about Michael mean for you and me? Well for me, I need to stop trying to be someone I am not. I need to not be so caught up in the outward appearance of success, with how I look, what I drive, where I live. I need to spend time connecting with people. I have known for years about the success that people like Michael have. I need to apply what I’ve learned from observing them, which is serve the people, not myself.
Here’s an example of how I’m putting this idea into practice: I have my own car (actually, it’s a van). I had to give up driving it for a few weeks because my youngest son needed it for work. Giving up my car was a problem for me because I see it as symbol of my status and independence. Without it I am dependant on my wife to drop me off and pick me up—like a little kid who has to be taken to soccer practice!
Some of you may be thinking, “Stop whining! Some people don’t even have a car,” and you’re right. I came to realize I was being silly about my car, and I got over it. I finally admitted that I was only thinking about myself and not the needs of my son. I decided that I would serve him by letting him drive my van.
It is one thing to be confident and self-assured. It is a much different thing to be egotistical and arrogant. I never want to become arrogant, nor do I want to be perceived as such. There are a lot of arrogant leaders out there, and it’s no surprise. To be a leader, one has to demonstrate authority, but it’s hard to be authoritative without coming off as a jerk. Michael has leadership figured out. He knows how to lead with power and authority without abusing his power and authority. He knows how to lead and serve others
at the same time.
Have you figured out how to balance your power and authority as a leader? It’s something I struggle with. Have you worked for someone who puts serving others above all else? What have you learned from that person about leadership?