“You don’t have to be a “real leader” to be a leader.” At least, that’s what one of the participants in my training told me this week.
But I disagreed as soon as I heard the beginning of his story. Because he IS a real leader. So I told him that.
“Yes, but I mean: I wasn’t leading a real team of people towards some real kind of objective” he replied.
… and that’s where he told the story that makes my ONE BIG POINT here.
“I was sitting at the dinner table after lunch on Sunday and my little girl told me she was still hungry. She always wants more than anyone else,” he added. “Normally I start making offers of things she could eat and, of course, she replies that she doesn’t like this or that or doesn’t want some other thing. But this time I did something different.”
When I asked him what, I was particularly happy. Not by what he actually did, nor by the “result” achieved. But by the fact that in only his first day of training with me the week before, he had got the ONE BIG POINT I want all training participants in my my leadership courses to get.
Yes, there is a ton of stuff you can do to be a good leader. And even more things you can put your focus on at any given time. You can set clear mission statements and align people to them, you can help people with motivation, create strategic action, coach and give good feedback … etc … etc…
But that’s not the ONE BIG POINT.
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“Well first I did what we learnt” he replied. “I stopped and I thought for a second. Just to break the natural cycle. I realised I didn’t want to do the things I normally do that lead to the results I normally get.”
So I asked again: “Cool. But what DID you do?” and he told me he simply said to his daughter that she should go to the kitchen and figure something out for herself.
“Really?” she replied with a big smile.
“Really!” he said. And off she went.
Then came the pure gold: He was about to get up and follow her to the kitchen when he asked himself: “Do I REALLY need to go and watch her? Do we REALLY to talk more about this?” Again, he slowed down his natural reaction just a little …
“Have fun!” he told her, his bum stuck solidly to his chair. And indeed, she did.
So this is my point, THE ONE POINT :
(Remember, its actually Covey’s first habit, but I figured if I acknowledge that and totally agree, I can say it’s my ONE BIG POINT too right?)
It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a “real leader” or not, if you have a formal team to manage, a family you love or a some other group of people you work with. It doesn’t matter if you do things one way or the other, just like it doesn’t matter if you tend to focus on the “tick-in-the-box”, KPIs or service-level agreements, the well-being of people or the development of their competences.
What matters is that if you just slow down a moment, stop and bring some focus to what you DO want, what IS going on and ask A FEW GOOD QUESTIONS, you’ll already be doing a lot better than a lot of “leaders” who just jump into their natural (often) unconscious behaviours.
“Well played” I already thought…. But the story wasn’t quite over yet.
He told me that about an hour later his daughter came proudly back to the family with a chocolate cake, a smile and a cuddle for Dad 🙂
Well played again, I thought 🙂
That’s a great leader!
(Dedicated to Hans)
Thanks for reading
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