Michael Jackson on Leadership
If you think leading others is tough, try self-leadership. Bill George said, “The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself.”
- High standards. Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
- Humility. Reject special privileges. A title doesn’t make you better than.
- Personal responsibility. Blaming isn’t leading.
- Go first. Never ask others to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
Michael Jackson on Leadership: The Man in the Mirror
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”
The song, “Man in the Mirror,” peaked at #1 on the U.S. charts in January 1988.
Motivation to lead begins with a problem to solve, a frustration to answer, or a drive to make something better. But eventually, you realize that leadership isn’t “out there.”
Frustration with others isn’t leadership. Owning YOUR frustrations is the beginning of leadership.
Leaders aren’t finger-pointers.
Blaming doesn’t change anything. The real question is about personal responsibility, not blame.
“I see the kids in the streets,
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs”
Compassion is the beginning of a life that matters.
- Leadership without compassion is tyranny.
- Compassion turns toward tough issues, not away.
- Compassion turns high standards into inspiration.
Be passionate about being compassionate.
Influence requires an open heart.
What does self-leadership look like to you?
What leadership lessons do you see in the song, “Man in the Mirror?”
Official video: Man in the Mirror
Full lyrics: Man in the Mirror
Written by: Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett
Trivia: The only place Jackson appears in the video is in a crowd shot toward the end.
Lead by example! That’s always what I was taught. If you want your reports to behave, perform a certain way, you have to show them what that looks like! Like you said, never ask someone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
Thanks Stacy. Your comment suggests that our frustration with something others aren’t doing points the way to something we need to start doing.
So what do I start doing if our leader brings on the frustration of their not doing? Is it still compassion? I’ll read the related articles above. Do you have a tidbit of advice beyond what is written in today’s post?
Great article and song reference. Unfortunately, way to often we encounter a significant number who missed the memo for #2 regarding humility.
Thanks Kat. If connecting is an essential aspect of influence then perks and special privileges get in the way. Probably the memo should be sent again.
Not a huge fan of the king of pop, but that song has it right. Leadership starts with me.
Thanks Joel. There are some dark blots on Jackson’s story. But the song speaks to me.
These four pillars stand out;
High standards. Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
Humility. Reject special privileges. A title doesn’t make you better than.
Personal responsibility. Blaming isn’t leading.
Go first. Never ask others to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
The challenge a number of us “Leaders” where I work (a relatively small company) have is regardless of how we lead and what we try some of the youngins just don’t have the “passion” that we older ones have for the work at hand. We try, we prod, we mentor and even than its hard to see any affect. They may step up for a few days but then slip back into non passionate behaviors. We “Leaders” talk about this all the time and our greatest challenge is holding in our impatience with the youngins. We as a company in fact do well with the current crowd but just see that our old guy passion probably makes up for the lack of passion from the youngins.
Thanks Roger. What I hear is that modeling the way isn’t enough. Yes, setting the example is a foundation. But other factors come into play.
I have lots of questions. Perhaps someone has answers.
What does passion look like?
How is it measured?
How much is enough?
How is it fueled?
I wish I had something great to offer…
Dan, we ask those questions and it comes back to we “Leaders” all in our 60s were apparently brought up in a different world and possibly by a different type of parents so our passion for any work appears and expressed differently than the youngins. We constantly ask are we asking more from the youngins than they can possibly give? It appears yes is the answer but that bugs us even more.
Roger, well it is a different world. I can see where that bugs you. I wonder if the youngins just have less passion about everything?
Truthfully, it’s Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett on Leadership, they wrote it! : )
Thanks Andy. That’s the truth.
Recent testimony from multiple victims paint Michael Jackson as a serial child molester in rather graphic detail. It is not appropriate to use him as an example of self leadership. The lyrics are OK, but the old adage , “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say” comes to mind.
Thanks Marc. I was waiting for someone to point this out. And you are right. I wouldn’t advise anyone to follow Jackson’s example.
How can I lead others, if I can’t lead myself? Self-leadership is one of the toughest things to do. Being honest with yourself and doing the right thing when no one is looking. I’m glad that I joined the military because it taught me that honor, courage, and pride which are the qualities I believe you need in your life for self-leadership. It’s easy to lead or tell others what to do, but when you have to follow your word, some people find it quite hard. We know the right thing to do but to try not to take shortcuts or follow through are some factors that challenge us, especially in leadership roles. One of the first things I look for in a leader is their ability to follow the orders they tell others to do. For example, if you are telling someone to take out the trash, your home and workspace need to be tidy. We all are a working progress, and we have our own biases; however, we must strive to fix those when in leadership positions.
The leadership lessons that I see in the song, “Man in the Mirror” is that try and be the best person and treat everyone right. That helps in leadership positions because that ensures you treat everyone with respect and fair. Additionally, if you want to change something you have to make sure that you are working on the change in yourself first.
Thanks Sterling. I feel heart in your comment. Plus the “take out the trash” illustration is a kick in the pants. You captured the idea of self-leadership in a simple illustration.
Lead by example! We should never ask anyone to do what we aren’t willing to do ourselves. Also, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than others. After all, if we can’t do it, how can we reasonably expect others too?
Thanks Mike. “If we can’t do it, how can we reasonably expect others too?” Love that. It’s the disconnected leader who likes to drive people to do more and more. They might change their tune if they were doing the job.
I came into a workplace where people did what they wanted. I lead by example and there is nothing that I ask the workers to do that I don’t have to do daily because of shortage. Working in foodservice and staff that are unable to read and follow recipes after being there over 15 years should have been taken care of long before I was hired. But when you are doing it and have no support from administration with documentation to write them out, how can you hold them accountable? When the directors aren’t having to work in your department and you are short staffed 2 or 3 every day the problem needs to be addressed by upper management because the salary is not inviting people to apply. Some people become so comfortable when no one is knocking the door down for a job. Burnout is just around the corner for you not them.
Thanks Melinda. I feel lots of emotion in your comment. For some reason, people think serving means burning yourself out. That’s NOT true.
Brene Browns work on compassion is important to this point. Setting boundaries and saying NO actually enables compassion.
I’m glad you joined in today. You bring up important issues when it comes to service, compassion, and long-term service. You have my best.
Michael Jackson? Really? I’ve had so much respect for what you say and the great examples you use until today. Michael Jackson is widely known to have sexually abused young boys. He never looked in the mirror and he never held himself responsible.
1. His standards for himself were low.
2. He had no humility at all. Obviously, he knew he had the power over those boys and he thought he was entitled.
3. He never took any personal responsibility.
I suggest you take another look at your message today and ask yourself if today was the best you could do.
Thanks David. Every day I post the best I have. Your observations about Jackson are correct.
WOW! I’m struck with these.. Humility I love, Pride I hate. Telling someone what to do but can’t do it yourself, is similar to not saying anything at all. I think for change to take a norm mode humility must be present and obvious. Self-leadership requires humility as a key to keep the goals aright ’cause it the key. I try to practice humility in any angle esp. with my team though few tend not to understand my motives. Sometimes engaging to do the hard works just to make it near perfection and keep accurate inventory of everything.. then I ask myself, ‘Are you doing the right thing?’ YES, I THINK SO! But engaging with the hard works doesn’t make me a great leader rather I fail to manage my time and write down the principles out.
Lessons from the song: I’m the man in the mirror and to get a positive results and feedback I must take the bold step first to create the change by making it obvious ’cause if anyone can do it I can do more better.. THANKS!
I am a realist. I view things from a realistic perspective. My definition of leadership is someone who is willing to solve real-life problems. Why is there hunger in America? We live in a country with plenty of opportunity and no one should be missing a meal. Yet, people are hungry right now in this country. A true leader ensures that “knowledge and information” is shared with all citizens of a nation. In reality, there aren’t any poor people. Only people who lack knowledge and information to get through a man-made system.
“I see the kids in the streets,
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs”
We cannot solve all the world problems. But there is something we can do.
Thanks Dan for this article
Wonderful insight. I would add that an essential component of Leadership is the development of followers into leaders.