Leadership is both an amazing gift and an unreasonable responsibility at the same time. The reason is because the buck stops with the leader. They’re the highest level person to turn to when there’s a problem, complaint, loss or victory.
I’m talking about a certain kind of leadership. It’s rare. It’s ridiculous. It’s totally unfair. It’s completely unreasonable.
This kind of leadership is only found in people who make a bold choice to be a certain way. Sometimes this choice is made consciously, sometimes it’s a subconscious choice. Either way it takes a thick skin, a lot of patience, forgiveness and compassion.
These leaders relate to themselves as The One. That means they’re the example to follow. They’re the model of who their followers want to become. And they do their absolute best to be the one they’d like to follow themselves.
This means the leader is expected to show up this way every day. Again, completely unreasonable and totally unfair.
But what if I feel sick? Sorry, my job is to show up anyway. But what if I have a deadline and my team and I are way behind? Sorry, my job is to show up anyway. But what if everything around me in my life seems like it’s falling to pieces? Sorry, my job is to show up anyway.
This doesn’t mean leaders aren’t allowed to be human. It just means leaders aren’t allowed to let their humanity be an excuse to not perform. It means leaders must show up for their teams as an example of excellence regardless of the circumstances that surround them.
If you’re a leader, and you’ve done what it takes to be self-aware, you’ll notice that what you do, your team will do times a thousand. Consider for a moment what that means.
If you show up with a negative attitude, they will too. Times a thousand. If you show up being self-righteous, they will too. Times a thousand. If you show up blaming circumstances and other people for your results, they will too. Times a thousand.
Think about what you want to see in your teammates and commit to being that way 100% of the time. 100% of the time? Will you ever reach that level?
Probably not. This is a completely unreasonable challenge. And, if you lower the bar, so will your team. Times a thousand. I’ve seen it time and time again. If leaders think this doesn’t apply to them, they’re sadly mistaken and it shows.
If you want to create a culture of winning on your team, I encourage you to consider taking on the challenge. I promise your team will be happier and more engaged, you’ll see more favorable results, and life in general will be all around better for you.
There are many traits these rare leaders have. I want to highlight this one because it goes along with my theme of unreasonableness.
One of the best sources whereby I learned about this concept is the book by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin called: Extreme Ownership. I recommend this book to most of my clients. It gave me a serious smack in the face and inspired me around the importance of leaders taking ownership.
Willink and Babin are retired Navy Seals turned leadership coaches and consultants to med-large size corporations. They served together in the Middle East after 9/11. This is where they learned about the importance of Extreme Ownership.
If you guys ever read this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service. And thank you even more for helping me learn this invaluable lesson about leadership. My life, my family, my clients, and my teams are all the beneficiaries of your work.
Imagine the turmoil these men were surrounded by. Their daily circumstances were actually trying to kill them. Ruthless enemy soldiers with bombs, machine guns, and a death wish. They had to trust their teammates with their lives.
When it came down to it, these men related to themselves as the owner of it all. Whatever happened, there was never anyone else to blame. It was always on them. No matter what.
Yup, even when it was clearly someone else’s fault. It didn’t matter if another soldier didn’t do their job. It didn’t matter if there was a miscommunication. It didn’t matter if the higher-ups made an unreasonable request.
These guys learned to take responsibility for everything, all the time, no matter what. Like they owned the joint. Because that’s what elite leaders do.
What they found was that their teammates began to follow suit. Because, you know, teammates will do what their leaders do times a thousand. The good, the bad, and the ugly. So we might as well give them habits to follow that work vs the other way around.
What would your team look like if everyone took 100% ownership regardless of circumstances? What would your team’s results look like? What would the energy of the team be like?
Do you think you’ll get more accomplished? Do you think people will be happier and more engaged? Do you think this concept would make life, outside of the work you do, different in a positive way?
Don’t take my word for it. Go do some research. Better yet, go practice this and see what happens for yourself. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Startup of 1
But what if I don’t have a team? What if I’m all by myself? Does any of this apply to me?
If you’re still reading at this point, it definitely does. You’re here for one of two reasons. Either because you aspire to build and lead a team in the near future or because you’re an army-of-one by choice and recognize the need for leadership development for what you’re up to in work and in life.
There’s an old saying I’ve heard many times that’s contributed to who I am today. I have no idea where I heard it so I apologize for my lack of citation to whoever made it up. “Leader of one, leader of many. If you can’t lead one, you can’t lead any.”
Who’s the one? You are. I am. We all are. Leadership has nothing to do with how big your team is or even if you have a team at all. It’s a way of being. A way of life. You either choose to practice it or you don’t.
Another one of my favorite books is called The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. He likens this concept to a Startup Of One. I think that paints a pretty clear picture of what this means.
We who choose this way of being to practice are choosing to be responsible for everything. Every moving part of a project, business, cause, family, friendship, or conversation. All of it. Like we own it. Because we do.
A person drawn to this kind of lifestyle wouldn’t want anyone else to own their life. And that’s exactly what we’re doing when we blame anyone or anything else for our experience. We’re giving them the power over us. We’ve become their slave.
The beautiful thing about all of this is that you get to choose. If you’re ready to free yourself from the bonds of slavery. If you’re ready to relate to yourself as the owner of your experience. All you have to do is take 100% responsibility.
Simple, but I would never try to convince you that it’s easy. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll probably feel bad about it. Are you going to let that stop you? You’ll see.
I recommend you treat it the same way you would a marathon. One step at a time. Get curious about what this all means for you, your team, your projects and your life. Ask yourself where you would go to find some answers. Then go there and keep going back. You’ll get the hang of it.
For me this is a lifelong journey. I’d never ask you to do something I’m unwilling to do. And, as you can probably tell, I love talking about this stuff. So any time from now until forever please feel free to reach out.
Congratulations on your choice. Whichever choice you made. For choosing is what leaders do. Blaming is what victims do.