The Soil of Leadership

I was recently reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley, and was surprised when he mentioned he had attended my high school, and I realized we were there together (my senior year and his first year). A few months later, through a friend, I met Perry Holley who is in leadership development for IBM and travels the world speaking to thousands of IBM’ers about personal and leadership development. As Perry and I got to know each other, we discovered we attended the same high school at the same time, and that he had played football with my younger brother, etc. As we discussed this, I mentioned that I had learned that Andy Stanley had attended our high school also. Perry then told me he and Andy were good friends in high school because they also attended the same church together.

I later began to reflect on Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in America, well known national speaker on leadership, and author of multiple leadership books. My friend Perry is a high-level executive with IBM, a Fortune 20 company, and is teaching leadership around the world. Here are two successful leaders teaching leadership that came from the same high school and the same church. I began to ask the questions — what did these two men get, what was taught to them, what experiences shaped them into the leaders they are today? Then the real question came — What is the soil of leadership? What are the climate, environment and nutrients necessary for the seed of leadership to grow? I would like to share a few of the many ingredients to grow leadership.

Models of Good Leadership

The key word here is good! We need a good example so we can identify the bad ones. I have learned as much from some bad leaders as from some good leaders; but I would not have been able to easily identify the bad leaders without the good leaders. As an example, a child who is raised in a poor home environment thinks and believes all homes are like his, unless he is exposed to a good home environment.

It has been my experience that many people lead the way they are being led. If their leader is good at the EQ side of leadership, they will model that as well. If their leader has poor people skills and is focused only on the production or the bottom line, they will minick that behavior as well.

Trust and Respect

We all need someone to believe in us so we can believe in ourselves. Self confidence will not remain — or happen at all — without someone trusting and respecting us. John Maxwell has an excellent Maximum Impact Club lesson titled “Three Questions Followers Ask Leaders”. These three questions are: 1) Do you care for me? 2) Can you help me? 3) Can I trust you? If those we lead don’t or can’t trust us, we can not take them very far down the leadership development path.

Growth Environment

There must be an atmosphere that encourages professional and personal growth. Present and future leaders need to continue to grow and invest in themselves. If your people are going to be motivated about the future, there should be a clear growth path available for all to see.

Challenging Environment

We all need to be stretched and challenged beyond our current capabilities and responsibilities. I often ask the executives I am coaching if they have ever been “thrown to the wolves,” and the answer is always yes. They usually respond that although the experience was painful, they grew tremendously during the experience. I then ask them if they are protecting their people from this experience and why.

Freedom to Fail

If you have a Challenging environment, you had better give your people the Freedom-to-Fail environment as well, or they will run from every challenge you provide.

These are a few of my ingredients, what are yours?

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