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Leadership guru and best-selling author, John C. Maxwell once said, “Leaders must know the way, go the way and show the way.”
It’s a great reminder of the responsibilities and challenges that come with leadership.
There can be a temptation as leaders to operate without a clear plan, to be aloof and to ask people to do things that you would never do, but that’s not how the best leaders operate.
So, if you’re a leader (or are aspiring to be one), let me ask you a few questions:
No matter how much you want to, you can’t force everything.
You can’t force people to agree with you.
You can’t force someone to see things from your perspective.
You can’t force people to share your values.
You can’t force your boss to give you a promotion.
You can’t force someone to believe in God.
So what do you do?
There’s a story of a young man who went to see a mentor.
The mentor said to him, “To be an effective leader, you need to learn how to make better decisions.”
“How do I learn how to make better decisions?” the young man asked.
“You need to get more experience.”
“How do I get more experience?”
“You need to make more bad decisions.”
Whenever a new employee starts at Apple, they receive a letter that says the following:
There’s work and there’s your life’s work.
The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.
They want their work to add up to something.
Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
Welcome to Apple.
Educator Daphne Koller recently gave a TED talk that contained the following contrasting quotes:
Firstly, from Mark Twain,
College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.
And then this from Plutarch,
The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.
These quotes describe the difference between giving information that no-one cares about and getting your audience excited about what you’re sharing.
Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, once said, “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”
He understood that learning how to delegate effectively is one of the keys to being a great leader.
It’s not a skill that comes naturally to me and I’ve seen a lot of other leaders who struggle with it as well.
But if you want to become a better leader, with more proficient people around you and a team that’s achieving brilliant results, you need to learn how to delegate.
Here are three reasons why:
You really don’t have to lead.
You can allow life to float past and watch it go by.
You can choose to let others make decisions for you.
You can choose a life of anonymity.
You can choose to blame those who do choose to lead when things go wrong in your organisation.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably effective communicator.
I feel comfortable articulating messages to large groups or to individuals and believe that I am clear, concise and personable in my delivery.
However, too often as a leader I have fallen into the trap of thinking that if I have said something once, then that should be enough.
Of course, to my horror, I would soon realise that the message hasn’t been fully understood or perhaps even fully forgotten.
There was a time when I blamed the listener for this gap in understanding. I would explain to myself that I’m an effective communicator, they’re just lousy listeners.
One of our family’s favourite activities is to visit a local pond and feed the ducks.
We have a few areas near us where we can do this and our kids have enjoyed these outings since they were very young.
As I’ve observed these beautiful creatures, there are a few key leadership principles that I think we can learn from them.
So here are three important leadership lessons that I’ve observed from ducks:
Wind can be incredibly powerful.
I’ve seen a town a few days after a cyclone has hit and it’s not a pretty sight.
Trees and even many buildings are knocked to the ground or in some cases picked up and transplanted elsewhere.
But the trees grow back, the buildings can be rebuilt and after a few months, there is little evidence of the wind’s power.
Fires are also extremely powerful.