When things are going tough, leaders need to step up and deliver more than every. Leading from the core is what we need to succeed.
When the mood in our workplace, at home, or in society in general is subdued, the value of great leaders becomes apparent.
How often have you seen individuals who have been promoted from one level to the next and the next and the next based on need and some extraordinary skills become insecure, controlling, stressed out and un-approachable, especially when their leadership is most needed?
How often have you lived through situations where decisions are being announced without a detailed explanation or reason why?
Have you been craving for leaders who are authentic, well balanced between factual knowledge and emotional intelligence?
Leading from the core is one of those traits that take a lot of development to become good at. To get into the right frame of mind, here is a little story I received today from Tom Mathews: As a leader, do you honor and appreciate the power of WE? Do you stop to thank and recognize the members of your team? Do you consistently show an attitude of gratitude? I recently read a great story about Captain Charles Plumb, a graduate from the Naval Academy, whose plane, after 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam, was shot down. He parachuted to safety, but was captured, tortured and spent 2,103 days in a small box-like cell. After surviving the ordeal, Captain Plumb received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts, and returned to America and spoke to many groups about his experience and how it compared to the challenges of every day life.
Shortly after coming home, Charlie and his wife were sitting in a restaurant. A man rose from a nearby table, walked over and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
Surprised that he was recognized, Charlie responded, “How in the world did you know that?”
The man replied, “I packed your parachute.” Charlie looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up, and said, “I guess it worked!”
Charlie stood to shake the man’s hand, and assured him, “It most certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today.”
Charlie could not sleep that night, thinking about the man. He wondered if he might have seen him and not even said, “Good morning, how are you?” He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Plumb then began to realize that along with the physical parachute, he needed mental, emotional and spiritual parachutes. He had called on all these supports during his long and painful ordeal.
As a leader, how many times a day, a week, a month, do we pass up the opportunity to thank those people in our organization who are “packing our parachutes”?
I can relate to this story, not only because I was a military jet aviator myself and have been with the guys who packed my parachute. I also relate to it because this core from which true, successful leadership comes from is a core of empathy, caring, praise, character, and appreciation.
To develop these traits and live them everyday in every situation, no matter how bad the problem, how bad the economy, how bad the sales, and how bad the approaching recession, a certain attitude is required.
This attitude assumes that every person is good, trying as hard as he or she can, and is willing to improve, given the proper guidance. As the leader we want to be this guide who provides support, creates the environment to excel, and is willing to take the blame and responsibility when things don’t work out as we had planned. That is distinctly different from a manager who takes a leaders’ vision and strategy and converts it into processes, policies, directives, and rules.
If you like to learn more about the development of this core, I recommend Henry Cloud’s book ‘Integrity’, Jim Collins ‘Good to Great’, Richard Boyartzis ‘Resonant Leadership’, and John Kotter’s ‘Our Iceberg is melting’. If you learn better with a story, you might want to start with Steve Farber’s ‘Radical Leap’.
In any case, ask yourself what you can do to develop a positive, resonating, caring core from which you operate, help other people succeed, and conduct your daily life. As you develop this core, you will enable yourself and those around you to come through adversity, recession, health issues, and the challenges of living and working with others with flying colors.
Don’t forget, they are packing your parachute – so you better treat them well and appreciate their focus and accuracy, so you will live another day and have a chance to be the beacon they require for direction in life.
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Dr. Axel Meierhoefer