Today I catch myself often going back and forth between aspiring to be a servant leader who influences by example instead of being a bossy boss that screeches too often. My hope is to be an influencer and change agent that leads by example and not through intimidation. I had a fascinating conversation with a close friend who is very tall guy but has a very gentile personality. Different from another friend who is built like a tank and too often uses his size to push people around and unfortunately confuse intimidation for leadership. We discussed the ingredients of being a leader.
I’m fortunate to be around a lot of college students and graduates who seek to be change agents. I’ve had the privilege of being able to guide and mentor many over the last decade. What stands out isn’t what a person says but how they choose to live their lives. It’s not how loud your voice happens to project that matters but more how your heart connects with others. A person’s true self is what connects or resonates with others to see life get better. The difficulty is that it’s too easy to confuse being bossy and loud with being a leader or change agent.
I grew up in a military home where my father was an officer in the Air Force who flew B-52’s. What stands out to me was that my dad could have very easily have been a screamer that demanded attention by his rank and presence. Yet, my dad was always a very gentile individual who touched me most by his actions not by what he said or screeched. I will never forget during my Jesus Freak days talking down to my dad and his response taught me so much about how you approach people and never assume that you know more or have life figured out. Yes, later I ‘repented’ about my youthful indiscretions toward my dad.
My Starbucks I frequent daily just went through a major paradigm shift with my close friend manager leaving and a new person taking over. Clearly the way in which this unfolded didn’t make sense and left the baristas and many customers at a loss. The new manager initially rubbed me the wrong way because they were bossy and didn’t give much interest in being a friend or understanding why I cared. I must be fair and admit that over the last few weeks I’ve seen less of the bossy side and more of a jump in type of leader manager.
I know that many would say that to be a good leader that you must have been a good follower at some point in your life. If you claim to be a great leader yet don’t have anyone listening or following than you are clueless about leadership. So how does one become a good leader except through following someone who is a great leader. I’m fortunate to have a couple of older friends, my grandmas and grandpas, who have touched me by their life examples. Grandma Bernice is someone that has a heart of gold but has chosen to be involved in a hands-on way in my life. She leads by what she does, says and also doesn’t say. I’m humbled to have her in my life after both my parents are now gone.
I totally see how learning about leadership can happen both through reading some incredible books from real leaders but more often it happens through servant leader type who recognizes potential in you. I’ve been so fortunate to have a few older friends who have been that to me.
I know that leadership is messy, exciting and challenging because it reflects real life. I’m also aware of the fact that on occasion great leaders, like Jesus, do express themselves with what appear to be bossy boss moments.
So aspire to lead first by what you do for others than a loud voice!