I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve heard every leadership principle in the book. I’ve read countless books on leadership, attended leadership conferences and have taught leadership for the past 7 years. I’ve ran an office for a marketing company, started another 6 figure business from the ground up and taught others how to do the same. I’ve taught countless college students how to lead others and more importantly how to lead themselves.
But maybe we are missing something? I mean a lot of us have the knowledge to be a leader, right? We’ve read books and listened to others on how to be a leader, but why are we having a hard time reproducing leaders? Why aren’t we where we want to be? I think we are in a paradigm shift where “knowledge is power” isn’t really what it used to be.
It used to be where people who knew the most often were the ones to receive a promotion. Knowledge and information was a scarce resource. The problem with that logic in 2018 is we are in the internet age where knowledge is plentiful today, maybe too plentiful. Everyone has their own philosophy of leadership, and anyone can access hundreds of different How-To manuals on being a better leader. The problem isn’t being uneducated, it’s the application of the knowledge and learning that we’ve already received.
So What’s The Answer?
So, if gaining more information isn’t the answer to being a better leader, and if the answer is truly in our application, how do we address this? We look at the heart. We are the problem. You see, we teach what we know but we reproduce who we are. We know how to be great leaders but we aren’t being what we know. My favorite quote of all time is “I can’t hear what you’re saying because your actions are speaking too loud”. We live in a world where a lot of people know “everything” and have an opinion about how everything should be. But our opinions aren’t going to help us be better leaders. Those who follow us want to be shown it. We don’t necessarily want to be taught verbally how to be a better person, we just want to see it. We want to actually know it’s possible. We know what we are supposed to do, but seeing someone actually put it into practice is inspiring.
What I am really trying to say is that our actions are the overflow of our heart. If we don’t feel passion we can’t give it. Not genuinely anyways. As leaders, we talk about how we lead through example but if we are honest we try to cut corners when others aren’t looking. And then if we get caught we cover it up and make up a great reason why we did it. Lack of staff, not enough time, “I didn’t know about…therefore I had to do….” Etc.. What if as leaders we had healthy hearts? What if we felt so secure in who we are we could own up to every miscue we have a leader? What if we put down the façade of having it all together and knowing the answer to every problem? What if doing what’s right was more important than being right? What if we put down our pride and just admitted we need help sometimes? Would students rather follow a “know it all” or someone who can be vulnerable but still feel empowered at the same time?
Whenever I speak to college students, my theme is “Take Your Next Step”. This works because it levels the playing field; it assumes we all have a next step to take in our life. No one has arrived; no one is beyond growing in some area of their life.
What’s a next step?
A next step is when you make a decision to move forward with something that is going to bring you into greater freedom and purpose.
When we feel we have purpose in our lives we have the ability to empower others to do the same. As leaders, we can’t give what we don’t have. If we don’t have energy we rarely can energize others. If we feel trapped then we can’t help others feel free. But how many times do we evaluate our lives and realize that we’re the same person year after year and we haven’t done anything exciting in a long time? In other words, we haven’t taken a next step. That’s a breeding ground for stagnation and for losing potential leaders; and those that stay never reach their potential. What I’m trying to say is that we sometimes quit as a leader but just haven’t given up the title yet. Some of us have been in a leadership position for years but haven’t taken a next step or grown in a significant way in a long time. If we aren’t taking next steps how can we lead others who are?
If we want to instill energy, purpose, passion etc.. we need to initiate that in ourselves first before we can give it to others. Whatever you want to give others you need to receive first for yourself. I feel like many of us are ingrained to think that “Its not about you”, but maybe it is about us. Maybe the reason we can’t sustain things for long periods of time is because we haven’t cared for our hearts in a long time. We’ve run out of energy and purpose. Why do 50% of college students never graduate? I believe a big reason is that they have run out of hope and they’ve stopped taking next steps. Who goes to college saying “I don’t want to graduate”?. As leaders, we take Next Steps not because we need to or have to but because it’s what best for us as leaders. This isn’t a “try harder” speech. It’s a “I want everything for you” speech.
The success of a leader is not determined by the talent of their hands but the health of their hearts. Actions are the overflow of our hearts and when our heart isn’t in the right place neither are our actions. We can talk all day about being a leader but if our hearts aren’t there it doesn’t matter. It’s all words and no change.
So don’t do what’s easy, do what makes you healthy. Great leaders care for their hearts and they give because they are able to receive. Great Leaders don’t lead apathetic lives. Too often as leaders we try to lead people somewhere we aren’t willing to go ourselves. Let’s focus on the heart, not on gaining more knowledge. Let’s take next steps so we can inspire others to take theirs. Let’s surround ourselves with people who keep our hearts healthy. Let’s not focus on what’s wrong with others and start focusing on ways we can improve.
Maybe your organization wants a different view point on leadership. I’m sure a lot of people have heard leadership principle after leadership principle. But maybe we just need to be healthy? Maybe it’s time for us to take a next step. I want to give a different perspective to schools and organizations that are tired of the same old leadership talk. You can learn more about me or contact me here.
Take the Free Two Week Leadership Challenge right from your phone!