What's Your Leadership Style?
How do you respond? Would you begin to rummage through your mind for how you had managed people and projects in the past? Would you consider how you are leading now?
So, what is your style?
Let me help you out a little bit. It is natural for us to adopt a “style” or a way of “leadership” from someone we have followed or worked for in a previous role. We may also adapt a style from a book we read on management/leadership/biography. Either way, we tend to integrate these acquired or learned behaviors in to our thought process as our “leadership style.”
The Dictionary definition of Leadership:
the action of leading a group of people or an organization.
synonyms: guidance, direction, authority, control, management, superintendence, supervision.
Have you decided yet?
Let me share my principles on leadership.
Leadership, at its core, is very simple. I also find it three dimensional. Many of us find the answer complex because the word leadership is intrinsically tied to a helm, to governing or to managing. The King is a leader, the President is a leader, the Mafia Boss is a leader and the Supervisor is a leader. What do they all have in common?
They all rule or manage groups of people and places, and therefore our mind naturally designates such behavior as a leadership style.
Leadership is simple because it is about a person’s character and values. Which are directly related to the Three Dimensions of Leadership.
In this article, I will talk about Three Dimensions of Leadership.
#1. Five Guys Burgers and Fries:
In 2002, Rick Miles of Rigby Idaho sold 150 sacks of potatoes to Five Guys. Jerry Murrell, the CEO of Five Guys, was very impressed with the quality of the spuds Rick had sold them. Jerry went to meet Rick in Idaho. They met in an open-air food court. They discussed potatoes, the quality, the quantity and then the terms. With a simple handshake, Jerry made a commitment to buy the potatoes from Rick. In that same handshake, Rick Miles made the commitment to sell the highest quality potatoes to Five Guys.
That handshake agreement continues to date. An agreement based on trust.
Leadership starts with and is founded on trust. Trust is the greatest characteristic and the strongest bond of Leadership. Trust is innate. Think about a child’s trust in its parents. Trust is Honesty. Trust is Integrity. Trust is Respect. Trust is non-negotiable. In personal or professional life, Trust is the singular and most fundamental principle of success.
#2. The Street Sweeper:
On April 9, 1967, in a Baptist Church in Chicago Illinois, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech.
“Even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
The point Dr. King is making, once you are given an opportunity, do it so well that it does not become another person’s burden. The Street Sweeper is about commitment. The Street Sweeper is about Respect. The Street Sweeper is about Excellence. It is about working diligently, not just hard. It is about being present. It is never about status quo. It is never about being careless. It is never about being apathetic.
General Motors was a successful and leading automobile manufacturer. They became the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. Sometime late in its 77 years of existence, people who led the company became complacent, careless and apathetic. They allowed cars with defective parts into the market. All sins come to inevitable fruition. General Motors ended up filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The workers lost their jobs, wages were deeply cut, and the shareholders lost their wealth.
There were quite a few successful companies that floundered and became insolvent due to inattention and ignorance. Kodak Company is one of them. They failed to recognize the digital revolution. The paradox is that Kodak was a pioneer in digital cameras. The first digital camera was invented by Kodak in 1975. In a transforming industry, Kodak ignored its potential.
“Bankruptcy happens gradually and then suddenly,” said Ernest Hemingway.
#3. Cast down your bucket where you are:
In his Atlanta Compromise speech in 1895, a highly respected educator and the founder of Tuskegee University, Mr. Booker T. Washington, told a story to his audience.
“A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: ‘Water, water. We die of thirst.’
The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A second time, the signal, ‘Water, send us water!’ went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A third and fourth signal for water was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.”
The resources are all around us. When you pursue your ambitions and goals, the resources will begin to show up in your life. Think about all the rags to riches stories you have ever heard and read. Their circumstances were more dire than most of us have ever dealt with. The secret is when the opportunities were presented, they availed themselves upon them.
Take the story of Chris Gardner. Perhaps you have seen the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Mr. Gardner, a single father of a 5-year-old son, became homeless. He lived in abject circumstances that for most of us are incomprehensible. An ordinary person would have given up. It is in this setting, with deep desire for success and courage, he takes on an un-paid job as an intern. Again, this is not what an ordinary person would do. He didn’t yield to disadvantages in life. He did not dwell on his misfortune. Rather, he took the maximum advantage of what was presented to him. Even though the opportunity was full of uncertainty, he invested.
Today, Mr. Gardner is a spiritually and financially successful man.
Look at the story of Singapore. When the British arrived in Singapore in the early 1800s, it was a mosquito ridden swamp. It became a trading post. The occupation lasted until the Japanese conquered the land in 1942. The Japanese bombing devastated the port and the land. Singapore regained self-government in 1959 and merged with the Federation of Malaya. However, due to social unrest and disputes between the country and the Alliance, Singapore was expelled from the Federation. It was another devastating blow to this 719 sq. km land. With no alliance, no natural resources, severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore was at an economic hopelessness. The expulsion was such a devastating blow to the country, I’m told that the Prime Minister cried. Yet, Lee Kwan Yu embarked on journey, leading his people on an ambitious path to a dramatic transformation of the country. Today, 55 years later, in a single generation, Singapore is one of the most modern and prosperous nations in the world.
Cast down your bucket is about perseverance. It is about being Industrious. It is about being Smart. It is in challenges and trials that we discover the opportunities. It is in that effort and struggle, we find the power within us to transform an obscure opportunity into a success story.
Leadership is not about a style. Martial Arts is about style; Karate, Boxing, Kung-fu, Taekwondo, Judo.
Leadership is a thought process. A three-dimensional thought process. The three dimensions are: Five guys, the Street Sweeper, and Cast down the bucket where you are.
It is in this context you discover your drive, purpose, and achieve ultimate success. This three-dimensional thought process continues to impact the way I approach tasks, and how I lead.
I hope I was able to widen the aperture on leadership for you with my principles.