A few years ago, I was working under a Leader who was known for being a nice guy, having a big heart but lacked presence. By that, I mean, physically. Nobody ever knew where he was or what he was doing. When you did see him, was always super nice and talked about the importance of servant leadership. But his thoughts on service often fell flat due to the lack of leadership support he actually gave. Later, I would even describe sending emails to him, as sending an email to a black hole. There was rarely a reply.
I don’t think we truly understood how bad it was until we got a new kid in town.
Word on the street was that our company would be opening up a new location in a more uppity part of town. It was the part of town that our current team would joke around about never wanting to work in because we would have to deal with a potentially more demanding type of clientele. They were the ones, upon arrival at our location, would complain that they had to drive extremely far from where they reside (a whopping 15 minutes off the freeway) and how much of an inconvenience it was to them. The one’s who immediately ask to speak to a Manager upon arrival to make sure they get what they want, regardless of how unreasonable it may have seemed. It was safe to say, our people had no desire to want to work at this new location.
Until this new guy showed up.
This new guy spent a lot of time in our building until his was done being built. He hung out with us, challenged us and connected with a lot of people. He was more than present. He engaged and inspired us in a way that we hadn’t been in some time.
When the time came to start hiring staff for his new team people were jumping ship all over the place to go and work with him.
It was crazy to watch. All these people who had sworn off ever working in this particular location and then it just didn’t seem to matter.
And then I realized something.
If the Leader is worth following, the destination doesn’t matter.
Think about that for a second.
I mean, this is how cults, happen people (But we aren’t talking about starting cults, we are talking about leading people to self-discovery and creating a healthy environment for personal growth).
And this was a guy worth following. Simply because he cared about his people and showed up. He treated them well, invested time and actually served them, rather than just talking about it.
We may know all of the characteristics of a great leader, but doing them is an entirely different thing. I’ve learned a lot about Leadership over the past decade of my life. I’ve learned the most from the bad Leaders; of how not lead. We all know what I’m referring to. So if you are somebody of influence, or even hopes to have influence, be worth following. Don’t just talk about serving. Actually serve. Give your time. Be humble and most importantly, show (not just tell) people that you care about them.
I’m sure you’ve heard this quote by Theodore Roosevelt before, but it’s worth repeating: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I knew in my head that my old boss cared about me as a person (because I knew he was a nice guy), but I rarely felt that way after interactions we had.
Do others feel that you care about them? Not just know with their head? How do you show them?
In answering this, you may discover whether you are worth following.
Do you have a time where you realized you were merely trying to influence through title and not action? What did you do about it? What have you learned from bad leaders in your life? How has it made you better? Share in the comments.