Please check out Dr. Tumlin’s book. There is no better advice in life or business than this book. Should be a mandatory read.
“No matter what this job is, you must decide to do it well. Do it so well that the living, the dead, or the unborn (Yes) can’t do it better. (Yeah) If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Raphael painted pictures; sweep streets like Michelangelo carved marble; sweep streets like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper (All right), who swept his job well.” (Oh yes)If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, Be a shrub in the valley (Well)—but be The best shrub on the side of the hill.” –Dr. Martin Luther King–
Although this excerpt was not a part of the “I have a dream” speech fifty years ago, it does ring true for leadership and remembering the insight of Dr. King.
I was told of a waste water worker in my city this past week, who has done his job for over 25 years. The director over this division spent a day with this man and had to tell me of his experience. He said this inspirational man stopped to thank God, several times throughout the day, for allowing him the opportunity to serve his family through his work. He thanked God while he was holding a suction hose picking up clogs of solid waste. The story goes on to say this man has done this for most, if not his entire career. He is also known as the best waste water worker in our city, possibly anywhere. His enthusiasm is contagious, his knowledge and expertise is admirable, and his heart is inspiring.
Sometimes we lose focus on our purpose in life. We separate our personal life from our work life, like the two have no connection. How can we be the best at our career craft, without being the best at home? I guess the question could be refined to; what is the underpinning for your pursuit to be the best? Is it self-satisfaction? Is it in the service of others? and if so, then who are you trying to serve?
I’m as guilty as anyone at competing at work and switching gears at home to just “be”. This is the struggle I’m working on, being the best I can be in “life” rather than at a career. I am trying to focus my service on a higher calling that will collaterally serve all of my life and those who share it with me, be it home, work or those I will never meet, like the waste water worker, whom I’ve not met, (yet).
This post is a stray from my normal ranting. But it’s a step… for me.
Authentic leadership evasively hides, getting harder and harder to find everyday. So many so-called leaders just manage day-to-day expecting great results to fall into their laps. If you “lead” in any fashion you need to evaluate your interaction and influence. You alone possess the power to make people feel worth while in their jobs. Even if you do not have direct oversight, your daily interaction will exert influence in your co-workers.
Awareness of your presence and impact is necessary. (me)
Can you change processes or procedures that have become so integrated in the daily grind they are never evaluated? It becomes easy and somewhat habitual to go to work and do the same thing over and over. Read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business You will discover we are controlled by our daily habits and environment. Small changes reinforce huge shifts in our lives and the lives of our co-workers and friends.
Next question, what have you done recently to improve your professional abilities? Are you really done learning your job? A true professional practices and works to get better at their craft every day. Just like the center on a football team (American NFL) who will snap the ball over and over and over again each and every day; you too should consider perfecting the small skills that make you a professional. Take a class, attend a seminar, read a book, teach a class, or just practice. No one knows it all or performs flawlessly without practice.
The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.
The only way to get better is to objectively look at your performance and seek outside evaluation for how you’re doing. We use 360 degree surveys that are unfiltered, raw unloading of the department’s observations as they see them. These evaluations are truly anonymous and sometimes brutal in content. Really good stuff. The results then can be categorized to look for trends and even be used to personally self-evaluate how you are perceived. CAUTION: Use these with care. Learn how to take raw feedback..
If you are not passionate about your work, read the book Turning Pro and evaluate your path. If you are just in a rut, look for ways to break the habits around you that are pulling you down. If you are passionate, then look for ways to communicate that passion to those around you so that they understand. Everyone hears the message differently thus personalities abound with diverse opinions. Craft your passion into a message that is personal to each one of your co-workers. Talk their language and see if your passion is contagious.
Change is not as difficult as we all think. It is as easy as changing simple mundane habits and embracing our passion. Also remember to be personal with those around you as the message you speak may be in a foreign tongue if not delivered in their native personality.
Parting Shot: Be vain, look into the mirror often enough to know how others see you.
Leading people means that they give you something very valuable, their trust in you to take them somewhere. Why would you give your trust to a “bad” person? Why would you follow someone who you didn’t believe cared for you? Well, there are a couple of reasons I can think of; 1. you need a paycheck, 2. you are stuck and are just waiting to jump ship to another job. Both scenarios are of organizations that are most likely not productive or unhealthy. With this bit of knowledge of followership, don’t we have the secrets to being a great leader? Be Good!!!
Your legacy in an organization starts on day one and builds to be your leadership potential. If your potential is low, take an objective look back over your legacy in the eyes of your potential followers. Would you admit that you may not be well liked, but think that doesn’t matter because you know the job better that others?
Followers will only follow rules to their stated limits. Followers that are inspired by a leader will always exceed expectations. (Me and some old Himalayan Shaman)
I am proposing a new promotional process for our mid-level leadership. I want to interview and investigate past performance rather than a written test and assessment center evaluation. This has caused some consternation, and I understand why. There is a high probability that the process could end up as a “good ol boy” system. There is also a possibility I can change the culture to one that understands that a legacy is worth more in leadership than a good test day. For the proposed process to work, I would have to build validation into our everyday culture that takes away the fears that our mid-level leaders can’t perform the job. I’m hoping I have them exceeding expectations on a regular basis.
Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast, (Peter Drucker, and then everyone else in the business world)
If the organization can grasp the idea of a culture that fosters growth in each other as much as the organization as a whole, leadership will be abundant. Good leaders emerge from the good follower that passes it on to those around him. You don’t have to be an anointed leader to care for those around you. Caring for and fostering the team is where the informal leaders garner a following. It then becomes a small step to the position of leader because people are used to following you already.
Aways be paying it forward.
We all follow someone, our God, our families even movie stars, sports figures and sometimes politicians. Well maybe not politicians, but we do find inspiration in others. Sometimes we don’t realize the influence our bosses have over us until years later. The flip side is that we also have people around us that we are influencing as well. You may not even know the impact you have on someone watching you.
“If you believe lack of authority prevents you from leading effectively, it is time to rethink your understanding of leadership.”— Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson
Leading From the Second Chair
Being a good follower and developing your ability and knowledge of your craft/role/position allows you to become respected as someone who knows their business. This is the first step in leadership, knowledge. People are impressed with those who hold knowledge and will seek to emulate them or compete with them. Either way, there is direct influence happening based on your presence of apparent knowledge.
The exposures you have to those who guide your path each day will culminate over time. This culmination will build some inherent traits, some good some bad, that shape your influence actions. Even if you can’t stand your boss, he will cast influence. After behaving in a manner for some time, a comfort level will develop. This behavior may not be your conscious decision, but anytime a person is stressed or threatened, there is a propensity to revert to a known, familiar action. This action really defines a large area of leadership. So what is the answer? Walk the walk…The more you act dependable, accountable, and compassionate the more it will become you.
“Learning the secrets and skill of great No.2s remains the surest path to becoming No. 1.”— David Heenan and Warren Bennis
I remember as a young officer feeling like time was standing still on my ladder climb. I just knew I could do it better than the guy above me. The grind of waiting and working was really a seasoning of sorts. I learned all the nuances of the day-to-day and some of those “rare” instances take time to experience. I spent seven years at a rank before promoting and as I look back now and I can see those years were necessary and priceless. I was good at my position, but learned to be better at following the position above me. It took many years for me to actually realize these benefits. When you must mentor those up and comers, the time starts to take on new meaning.
“Followers are more important to leaders than leaders are to followers.”
You must be very clear in your thoughts of who you want to be, and then work on presenting this image with your actions. Credentials and knowledge are the tickets to play, actually gaining membership into the realm of leadership will be gained with your actions, legacy and those most valuable of all, your followers. Be a good follower to set the example and you’ll be the leader you aspire to be.
Parting Shot: Leadership is a gift from those who follow…..
Please click the link below and watch the ultimate followership youtube video…..
Followership instructional video…
When I first ventured into my career (firefighter), I was living the dream. As the years started flying by, It didn’t take long before I became a little confused. As I prepared to promote in the old system, I was told how I needed to change if I ever wanted to lead people. I needed to act like a leader. It seemed I was too close to those around me and therefore unable to discipline them. I felt my bosses didn’t notice how my shift was the most cohesive, highly productive in the department and how I knew each member of the shift personally and cared for them. How could I be wrong? They guys would do anything I asked of them because they knew I had their best interest in mind. I didn’t know or understand that I was learning/practicing a form of leadership. I was just being me. It still somehow escapes me that people will follow my visions. I am humbled. I tell you this, not to boast, but rather make a point,
“Leadership is how to be, not how to do” (Frances Hesselbein)
One statement new firefighters seem to always make is “I want to be in a department that has potential for advancement”. This is coming from a rookie that hasn’t worked a day yet. You have to ask yourself, “why do you want to be in charge?” Do you really have an understanding of the responsibility associated with being the leader? Those that follow you are directly impacted by your vision and influence. The allure of leadership is somehow mixed up with the notion that with it comes power. The reality is that with leadership comes great responsibility, usually not seen or taught in classes. Now, I must define the leadership I’m referring to is that of a fire service officer. Personal leadership influences organizations with associations to the culture, another topic for discussion later…
Servant leadership is the style du jour. “I feel my time has come.” I don’t have to change or act to fit into a now recognizable style. I’ve learned a lot from my past leaders, mostly how I was not like them, and that’s OK with me. I really did learn a lot. I watched the impact that the leaders had on those around me. The old style was effective in producing exactly what we outlined and usually nothing more. That was OK as well. We served up a pretty defined product that really did not need much more than that. Today’s communities, economy and mores demands more of the same profession. The leaders in my business are striving to change the traditions of the past with people who grew up learning how they should act.
Authentic leadership must be a reflection of the real you, not an act.
Servant leadership isn’t the only effective style. I will argue the most effective is the one that is sincere. Steve Jobs had been followed as an authoritative dictator. It’s hard to argue that his style of leadership wasn’t effective. He was passionate about his pursuits, and he didn’t act like most CEO’s in the biz. He is my one of my favorite CEO’s, not for his leadership style but his drive and passion. I would have followed Steve Jobs (as a boss), because I would have believed what he told me. That’s another topic, trust, the foundation of leadership which would validate the sincerity.
The followers are there, they are all around you looking for the real deal.
I’ve watched several friends work hard in serving up what they had learned in leadership classes only to experience failure in application. Understanding the tenants of leadership is essential to shaping “how to be.” The best advice I could give today’s upwardly mobile fire service leaders is, “don’t act, just be”. This understanding will likely take time to set in, just as it has for me. I am continuing to follow education in leadership, because I am trying to hard to make sure I don’t screw this up. If I have people actually following my vision, I better be right and I can’t be acting.
And one more thing, I’m still living the dream. Maybe that has something to do with it as well.