Great Leadership Starts on the Inside
Dan recently sent me this text.
Three years ago, Dan called to tell me a very different story, following an unexpected moment of self-reflection.
Dan: When my daughter Grace asked if she could play soccer this year, I had one condition. ‘If you make the team, you have to commit to giving 110%, even on the days you don’t feel up to it.’ A few weeks ago Grace told me she didn’t want to play anymore. She wanted to quit mid-season. I reminded her about giving 110%. When I heard my own words, I felt like a hypocrite. I’m giving way less than that at work. I’m just going through the motions. I’m violating my own values, and I can’t live with that. Something has to change.
(When people say this, they’re usually thinking - new job. I’m thinking - transformation.)
Me: What’s the problem at work?
Dan: I can’t get excited about meeting the numbers.
Me: What could you get excited about? What do you love to do so much that if money wasn’t an issue you’d do it anyhow?
A nano second passed. (Dan’s wife had already asked that question.)
“What do you love most about coaching?”
Another nanosecond went by.
“I love seeing a player do something they thought they’d never be able to do.”
“You could be a leader by being a coach. We could re-frame your job and your role so you’re focused on coaching people to do things they didn’t think were possible.”
“I can’t do that.”
“I can’t take my eyes off the numbers.”
“Don’t coaches get the numbers on the scoreboard by coaching the players?”
“Yes, but I’m not paid to be a coach.”
“But if coaching helps your team make the numbers, that’s exactly what you’re paid to do.”
“But If I take my focus off the numbers…..”
An Experiment in Becoming a Great Leader
I suggested a one month experiment and Dan agreed. We included an escape clause. If coaching didn’t work, if he wasn’t meeting the numbers, he would go back to the way he had always done things.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
After Dan sent the text that appears at the beginning of this post, I called to ask, “Are you still coaching?”
What’s the Secret Ingredient?
The secret ingredient of great leadership is not to be a coach, although that might work for some leaders. The secret ingredient of great leadership is to
Love what you do.
Great leaders seek passionate, committed, inspired employees. Great leadership starts with a leader who is passionate, committed, and inspired. Great leadership begins with loving what you do. It doesn’t mean loving every task or every moment of the day, but it does mean loving the essence of what you do and the reasons you do it.
Are you inspired? Do you love what you do?
I hope so, but if not, let’s talk about turning your role into one that you love.