The Inconvenience of Leadership
- Was it convenient for Winston Churchill to lead England through World War II?
- Was it convenient for Florence Nightingale to lead the nurses in the Crimean war?
- Was it convenient for Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the fight for civil rights?
- Was it convenient for Mother Teresa to care for the poor in Calcutta?
Dare-to-Serve leadership is simply not convenient. It is not easy or without trouble.
Let’s think about why this is the case. . .
If we are to take the people to a daring destination – it will require courage and commitment. By definition, we are asking the people to get outside of their comfort zone. The leader role models this behavior by going first, evidencing confidence that the destination can be reached.
I recently heard Chris Warner, one of America’s most accomplished mountaineers, talk about leading mountaineering expeditions up the peaks of K2 and Mt. Everest. The climbs took months of preparation. The team members had to be incredibly fit, emotionally mature, and capable of being trustworthy. A failure in any of these areas could lead to failure in the climb, or even death.
Luckily most of us don’t risk death in our day jobs. But like these extreme mountaineers, we must exhibit courage and confidence to our teams. They must see our deep-rooted commitment to reach the goals. They must see us step out of our comfort zones, to assure them that they can step out of theirs.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate courage.
First, you can share with the team how you got comfortable with the daring destination. Tell them your thought process, your investigation, and the options you considered. Give them an opportunity to ask questions to gain understanding. Consider even sharing the fears you personally had to overcome to lead them. Vulnerability is a powerful teacher.
Further, if new skills are required, let the team see you growing your own skills and investing in their development. If the destination is risky, let the team see you studying the data, discussing the alternatives, and role modeling calm review of the choices. If the destination has to change, due to new information, let the team see you open to listening and learning as you make the necessary adjustments. Use each detour to advance the capability of your team.
This courageous approach takes time, preparation, thoughtful review, and investment in the people. It may not be easy or convenient, but it will set them up for success.
Will you demonstrate courage to your team in your actions?
Dare-to-Serve leaders serve the people well on the way to the daring destination. In the workplace, serving has such a terrible reputation. We think of it as weak, passive, or lacking accountability. It is not any of those things. It is simply thinking less often about yourself – and more often about the team members who have been entrusted to your leadership.
Often we think serving others occurs only in non-profit organizations. Perhaps you have a friend who serves meals at the soup kitchen. Or you know a doctor who takes medical mission trips. Or perhaps you personally have built a home for Habitat for Humanity. There is no question that the people who do these things serve others. Even when it is inconvenient.
But what about work – how do we serve others at work? Here are just two of many possibilities:
Set clear expectations. This may sound too obvious, but I have seen this mistake over and over again. If a team or team member is struggling, go back and review what expectations you set in the first place. Were you thoughtful and clear? Did you offer them the opportunity to ask clarifying questions? When we don’t do this, the team struggles. They lose valuable time and productivity. Think about what happens when we don’t make the effort to set clear expectations: the team struggles to figure it out. They invest extra hours. They lose productivity. And worse yet, they might fail.
Give feedback. Another idea you’ve already read about in a book. But leaders are far more comfortable saying “great job” than they are helping another person grow in skills and adjust their behavior. It takes preparation, time, and uncomfortable conversations. Yet think about how you are serving that person if you don’t give them feedback. They don’t know there is a problem. They don’t get the benefit of your experience. They continue to disappoint you – and don’t understand why.
This is a humble approach – because it requires thinking more about them than you. It takes time, preparation, thoughtful review, and investment in the people. It may not be easy or convenient, but it will set them up for future success.
What ways can you serve your team members? And what will that require of you personally?
Ponder this. When you find yourself thinking, “this is not convenient,” “this is not easy,” or “this is a lot of trouble” – that’s exactly when you start becoming a Dare-to-Serve leader.