The Most Unremarkable Thing Leaders Do
The most unremarkable thing leaders do is worry about themselves.
- Self-worry shrinks life.
- Fretting – over yourself – makes others into enemies.
- Self-focused hand-wringing stinks like fear.
Lousy leaders worry too much about themselves.
I’m often asked, “If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?”
Truth is, my younger self wouldn’t listen. But, if I felt foolhardy, I’d say to my thick-headed younger self, “Get over yourself. You don’t need to be the smartest most talented person at the table. In fact, you aren’t.”
Worry about yourself:
The best way to worry about yourself is to worry about others.
Worry about others by pouring into them.
#1. Trust others to rise to new challenges. Lousy leaders are “better” at everything. Arrogant talent is a barrier to the growth of others. Humility opens doors for others.
Trust makes others feel powerful.
#2. Ask about issues and challenges. Self-worry makes you think about your problems. Worrying about others allows you to make space for them.
#3. Affirm strengths. Begin your next meeting with everyone’s name on the whiteboard. Ask your team to give one strength for each teammate. You might ask, “What is Mary/John really good at?” (Duplicates are expected and affirming.)
Conclude the conversation by discussing, “What value do your strengths bring to our team/organization?”
#4. Schedule a one-on-one. Let them set the agenda. What would you like to discuss?
#5. Silence your fixer. One of the best ways to pour into someone is to pull out their best self.
Average leaders – who pour into others – go further than self-focused superstars.
Pouring into others is a perpetual motion machine.
Encourage your team to pour into others. You might begin a meeting by asking, “How can you pour into others this week?” (Who, when, how.)
What do unremarkable leaders do?
How might leaders pour into others?
Wow. Can you imagine candidates for the Presidency approaching leadership like this??!?
Thanks Pete. It takes imagination. 🙂
Well timed & relevant posting for me, Dan! I have made a career out of leadership roles where I had to lead initiatives to fix broken situations or create organization where there was none. I am now in a highly positive, highly capable organization that does not need fixing per se. I am a month in & your article reminds me to have patience, keep the faith in the highly capable professionals around me & not make it about me. Thanks!
Thanks Bob. Congratulations on your new position. It’s interesting that each situation has unique challenges. When the house is on fire, focus is easy. The challenges of success are more difficult than the challenge of facing a crisis. Best for the journey.
Two comments: (1) Love the phrase, ‘Pouring in’ as it suggests far more than being present and empathic – really get involved; and (2) this post reminds me why the ‘servant leader’ is such an important goal / image. Great post as usual!!!
Thanks John. My respect for you adds weight to your insights and kind words. Here’s to a great week.
I love today’s post, Dan; it embodies the approach I’ve always tried to take at work and at home.
The challenge with pouring into others is keeping balance. In order to pour into others, one must have a reserve from which to pour out. Leaders should remember that they need someone or something in their own lives that fills them up too. This also helps to lessen the tendency towards self-worry…
Thanks Gap… Wonderful insight. You can’t pour into others if your cup is empty.
There is some pouring in when we pour out. But, there’s a limit.
People ask me how I am able to write every day. The answer I give is, “If you want to get a lot out of your life, pour a lot in.”
You’re nailing an important principle of leadership.
Excellent advice. Having a meeting today and will put names on the whiteboard. Thank you for changing the focus to what will really help.
Thanks Shelley. It’s a pleasure to offer something that might be useful. My experience is that teams often feel energized when they have a chance to focus on their strengths. Best for the journey.
Wow…this just confirms how lucky I am! The majority of staff I have pour and pour themselves into others which yields great fantastic results. How lucky am I that I have to remind them to take care of themselves at times. Servant leadership is what we are all about. Those that don’t like or can’t do that consistently usually move on. Expectations are clear which is key.
Thanks Doug. You don’t have to beat good people up. You have to help them take care of themselves. 🙂 What’s really great, is there are many great people in this world!
Leaders take care of others so others can take care of others. 🙂
A wonderfully rewarding moment for a leader is when those we have poured into, pour back! This morning I received a call from a fellow twenty + years my junior (someone I’ve poured into) simply saying “I know things have been bumpy, I wanted you to understand you’ve been in my thoughts/prayers.. Want to grab a Coffee?” for the way I’m wired that goes a long way, and helps me see what you have called the “Perpetual Motion Machine.”
Thanks Ken. Wonderful story. It makes me think about how easy it is to pour a little fuel into someone’s engine. It’s like when your children get to the point of appreciating what it takes to raise children. 🙂 Their acknowledgement feels great.
I really enjoyed reading your tips for leaders. In my next one – on – one meeting I will ask my people to set the agenda – I will share the outcome.
I struggle with this one–silencing the gremlins so that they don’t spill out into my work world. Meditation and visioning is so important for self-mastery, which is really what it’s all about. You serve others best when you first update your mind and banish old, out-of-date assumptions and limited beliefs. When you put aside childhood baggage and get powerful here in the present, then you’re ready to help others.
Thank you for this post! I am a associate pastor who is craving the things you are writing about! It is so easy, even in ministry to become focused on yourself or on the mission while forgetting about the people around you. I have just recently turned my focus on my teams and making investments in them! Thank you for sharing your insights!