Interestingly enough, the one theme I can find that connects almost every aspect of our lives, childhood, school, work, personal, family is leadership. It may come in many forms with many titles, but it always comes down to responsibility, decision-making and accountability. And trust me, I am not going to give you a diatribe on how great a leader I am, because often I am not. Though I aspire to be one.
Success and leadership are often intermingled, but they are not the same thing. One can be the product of the other, but too often success may come at a cost, sometimes that cost can leadership-less. That is when success comes at the cost of somebody out there. Greed and avarice is not leadership. In fact financial success is not always leadership and neither is winning always leadership. Though financial success and winning require leadership, but its an ingredient not the final product. I would classify leadership in its own category. Other words come to mind like ethics and morality. I would not go that far, but these are the underpinnings of leadership.
So I have thrown a lot of words into that conversation. One place I can point to is our childhood. If you are influenced by somebody who embodies leadership it can impact your entire existence. If you were influenced by the opposite of leadership, you may have tendencies to run from taking a position, taking a role in leading or taking control of anything, including your own life.
Quite frankly my tendency is to run from leadership. I know deep inside how much a commitment takes. I finally got married at 42, late in life, because I did not want the commitments involved. But sometimes we are unlikely leaders. Being a parent puts you in a position where you have no choice. You can be a leader of your child and show them the way or you can run. A few people run, I did not. I guess this is a big test in life for all of us.
I have been in charge and will be in charge of all kinds of stuff in my life, including business, personal and sometimes community. And while I don’t want the responsibility, I aspire to be the person in charge. In several cases in high school and college I was either the president of an organization or ran my own youth group. I even was in charge of a chunk of a national organization in BBYO. I have owned my consulting company and software business over the years and have had to take responsibility for these companies, meaning paying the bills and making sure the work gets done.
There is one place we can all make an improvement in our day to day lives and that is being accountable. It is not always fun. It is not always something we want to do. It means answering a call and talking to a person we don’t want to. It may mean for me talking to a client and getting back and having a conversation with someone I quite frankly don’t want to talk with. It can mean living up to some level of responsibility in life.
I find the insidious lack of accountability has slowly reared its ugly head in almost every aspect of our lives mainly because of technology. We used to be able to receive a written or printed letter and write a letter back to respond. Back then we had the time to think and write carefully that letter. Today I get almost a hundred emails a day, and sometimes I have to log on in the middle of the night to respond to some one, some place who needs an answer to a question. It may be something minor. It may be a big issue, but I definitely aspire (once again) to get an answer to that person. Like everybody in some form of technology overload, we end up missing the responses here and there. It comes at no surprise to me, because there is no way a rational person can respond to everything going on. The tweeting and posting on Facebook walls has only increased this to a new level.
The best thing I can do, and you can as well, is to make an effort, figure out what needs to be responded to and what not to respond to.
I have been around real leaders, and trust me I see things in them I will never have the capability of doing. That’s ok. I am more of an observer and supporter than a traditional leader. My leadership skill is based on how I live and not on exactly what I have accomplished. I influence others by how I take actions. We all simply need to look in the mirror and measure ourselves, our capabilities and what we want to get out of life. If you want to succeed and win, especially in business, then learn from existing leadership (the past) and put yourself in situations where the leaders exist now and can influence you. This is so critical if you are young and just starting out. The ones who are able to learn from great leaders will go on to be great leaders themselves.