How to Embrace Your Nobility and Lead with Dignity
I decided to begin the presentation, “Thank you for being heroes.” But, I ended up saying the opposite.
It was dark while I drove to the hotel. I was scheduled to give a presentation to school teachers and administrators the next afternoon.
In the dark, faces of teachers I hadn’t thought of for years flashed in my memory.
The next afternoon, I began by saying, “When you look at me today, you see glimpses of the teachers who cared for me. I am who I am today, in part, because of them.”
“I intended to call you heroes, but you’re not heroes. (long pause.) The people you serve are heroes.”
I heard one teacher shout out, “That’s right.” I asked her if she was a Baptist or Pentecostal. We all laughed.
Something powerful happens when you realize leadership is about others. Yes, it’s humbling. But there’s more.
Nobility in leadership arrives when you realize the people you serve are the heroes of the story.
There are too many leaders running around with capes. In reality, it’s the leader’s job to pin the cape on others.
The teachers who changed me made me the hero.
Leader as hero-maker:
- Help people believe they can make a difference. See strength in others. Stop obsessing about things they can’t do.
- Turn the spotlight on others. The more deeply you enjoy the spotlight, the more urgently you must turn it on others.
- Make space for strategic struggle. Don’t quickly fix other people’s problems. People gain confidence when they hack through difficult situations. (Stay available to help. Coach. But don’t meddle.)
- Keep reciting, “The people around this table are the heroes of the story.” They aren’t the enemy.
The vision of leadership is building an organization of heroes.
How might leaders practice the art of being hero-makers?
Thanks to Donald Miller and his clarity about heroes in his new book, “Building a Story Brand.”
How might leaders practice the art of being hero-makers? Leaders need to understand how to build the network of Heroes, I believe yeterday someone commented on “hiring people smarter then us”, so we can feed from each other! The knowledge base we have is only as could as “we strive to learn continously” till the very end! Lifes experiences are enhanced when we build instead of tear down, so “build your network of heroes”, they are out there waiting for you to give them a chance.
Brilliant Tim. Your suggestion enables exponential change.
When leaders see themselves as hero-makers it’s easier to hire people who are smarter than we are.
Wonderful post, and a timely reminder. Happy Thanksgiving, Dan.
Thank you Anthony. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!
Truly the best when “leaders” keep the focus off themselves…
Those who teach are put into a spot of leadership – perhaps the most important leadership of all. And yet, how ironic that there are perceptions and sayings such as “Those who can’t – teach.” Which is perhaps why we have this culture of cape-wearing leadership – “Look what I can do!” The unfortunate thing is many cape-wearers talk a good line of servant leadership, but don’t walk it. I love your light-bulb moment in this piece and I hope it resonates widely.
Thanks Kathy. I love it when I have the opportunity to speak to teachers. I’m a leadership guy, not an education guy, so I talk to them about leadership. I treat them like the leaders they are.
If leadership is influence, teachers are some of the most important leaders.
And they all said AMEN.
Superman woke only to discover that he’d been wearing the cape in reverse. Real heroes tie on the apron and pin cape on others.
I had the honor of being at your presentation to the school “staffulty” as we like to call it. Thanks, for your insights and knowledge.
Wow! Thanks for stopping in, John. It was my honor. I was enriched by thinking back on all the teachers who have made a difference in my life.
Interesting topic for me today as this weekend I gave a presentation on leadership and communication to 200 high school students and group leaders at a peer leadership experience , “Operation Snowball”. In this presentation I also shared my HS story as I graduated from the same high school .I was not a stellar student in 1968 but the determiners of my future success where not my grades, test scores or class rank .The real determiners where my teachers, counselors and coaches who 50 years ago inspired me to be the teacher and trainer, leadership coach and professor I am today. I asked my audience, in closing, to visualize who those educators are their mentors now and do what I didn’t in most cases, Thank them..
These kids are our future and we need to intentionally teach them to Listen, Learn and Lead (Bill Walsh) in service to others.I believe our teachers do this daily.
Finally Thank to you Dan ,I use your posts in my Doctoral classes on a regular basis and you introduced me to Mark Miller with a copy of “Leaders Made Here” .I use it in my classes frequently .
Thanks for all you do
John My Best
Wow! Thanks for a great story. It’s the people, not the grades! I wish organizational leaders would understand that it’s about the people. It’s not results OR relationships. It’s results AND relationships.
Thanks for your kind words. It’s a pleasure to be of service.
Thank you for reminding me of why, in part, I am what and who I am. For someone who was held back in the 3rd grade, because my Mother didn’t think I was ready for fourth and ultimately received my PhD in 1999, I can only thank my Mother for her wisdom and my teachers and professors for their insight, guidance, challenges, and encouragement.
As a professor at Tulane, I try to continually focus on my graduate students by creating an environment to learn and an openness to be educated. Truly, it is all about them and not me.
BTW, need to talk with you about an idea we have come up with for next year for you to present to our students. Your presentation this year made quite an impact. We’ll talk.
Hey Jim. My birthday was after the deadline so I started school a year “late.” It’s a good thing.
It was great spending time with your students. I look forward to discussing what you have in mind.
Let’s talk after Thanksgiving. Send me your phone number.
Thank you for your very timely comments today, Dan. I came in prepared to present performance appraisals to my staff this morning using a lot of what I’ve learned this year. Instead of diving in as I’d planned, I’ll be taking some time to polish my verbal comments using some (many?) of these suggestions.
This post has really reminded me that its not all about me. Lately, I have been struggling with my new position. I am in charge of a program at my facility. I am “steering the ship” of the program while others are assigned to lead in areas of the program. Others have been tasked with also conducting internal audits of this program. Basically everyone is playing in my sand box and learning and helping to develop the overall program. They are becoming leaders in this program. I should be happy! These people are stepping up and helping the program. But I have found myself becoming annoyed maybe? Because other people are learning along with me and coming up with ideas or saying how things should be done differently… But yet I was struggling because it was my sandbox and I want to be the only one learning. Well I cant. The program will suffer and I will set myself up for failure if I do not allow others in to learn and help develop the program. Its not all about me! Its all about building up the people around me.