I don’t know any other way to lead but by example – Don Shula
A turkey is chatting with a bull, “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”
“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.
The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.
One of the worst mistakes aspiring leaders make is the quest to get to the “top” without the benefit of the wisdom and leadership skills necessary to sustain them once they do. So instead of relying on strong leadership and relational skills they fall back on crutches that do more harm than good. Here are three of the most common crutches that will sink your leadership.
The crutch of your position
This is perhaps one of the most common crutches aspiring leaders depend on. It’s much too easy to throw your weight around as a leader by playing the “positon” card rather than putting in the time to develop stronger leadership skills. It’s much easier to issue decrees from behind closed doors than it is to get out from behind the desk and build relationships and get to know your people.
Your position is not the end game of your leadership – it’s the beginning. Your position is not your destination. Positons come and go and at the end of the day what matters is that you have skill sets in place that render your position or title as secondary compared to the extra-ordinary influence you have that is born out of relationships.
Leadership Tip: The harder you work at developing your skill sets with people the less you will have to rely on your position.
The crutch of entitlement
The crutch of entitlement is the by-product of the crutch of your position. Once a leader has bought-in to the belief that he or she has arrived simply based upon a title is the day he or she begins to develop a sense of entitlement that they believe their title confers. This is a devastating view of leadership.
Here’s the truth- the higher you ascend in your organizational structure and the more your leadership influence will grow and the more responsibility you will have. It’s not a power grab for your personal entitlement, it is a call to servant leadership. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s about growing others around you.
Leadership Tip: The measure of your leadership is not about what you believe you are entitled to but in how you can serve others more effectively.
The crutch of the rule book
The crutch of the rule book is one of the most detrimental crutches that a leader can evoke in his or her organization. It is the crutch that stifles creativity, which builds walls instead of bridges, and puts the lid of growth. The crutch of the rule book lives by “the manual says…” instead of igniting creative and imaginative thinking.
Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks International, espouses a “play book” instead of a rule book, and I agree. It’s when your people are empowered and trusted that they will shine the brightest. A play book is empowering and is based on trust. Beyond that, it gives you options. A rule book locks you in and is tightly controlled.
Leadership Tip: Develop a play book with your team. Foster a culture of innovation and creativity. Be a leader who unleashes the potential of your people.
Here’s one last take-away about leadership and crutches that I’ve learned over the years. Getting rid of the crutches is like taking the training wheels off a bike. At first, you may think you can’t ride the bike without them but in due time you will wonder why you held on to them for so long.
Whatever your leadership crutch may be- dare to identify it, and dare to let it go. You will be glad you did.
© 2015 Doug Dickerson