If not me, who? And if not now, when?
— Rabbi Hillel
A story is told of the late Harland “Colonel” Sanders on an airplane when an infant screamed and would not stop even though the mother and flight attendants tried every trick they could think of. Finally, the Colonel asked if he could hold the baby. He gently rocked it to sleep.
Later, a passenger said, “We appreciate what you did for us.”
Colonel Sanders replied, “I didn’t do it for us. I did it for the baby.”
The story is a reminder of a principle that all leaders need to remember – it’s not about you. It never has been.
Standing in the way of an otherwise good leader that’s setting a bad example is:
• A sense of entitlement – So long as you feel entitled by your position or power, you will continue to set a bad example.
• Pride – So long as you feel as if serving is beneath you then leading will be beyond you.
• Ego – If you are thinking too highly of yourself then it will be difficult to set an example or lead others.
In more than three decades in leadership, I’ve been exposed to some leaders who were great examples and those whom I had just soon forgotten about. Chances are, so have you.
So what qualities or characteristics are essential in times like these to set a good leadership example? Here are a few for consideration.
A leader with humility
It’s been said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. A leader with humility is comfortable in his or her own skin and places the needs of others ahead of his or her own.
A leader with integrity
At the end of the day, all you have is your name. Before a person buys into your vision they first must buy-in to you. It won’t matter how good your vision or dreams are, you can only travel as far as your integrity allows.
A leader with a servant’s heart
You will never set a more powerful example than when you exemplify the qualities of servant leadership. When you serve others and are committed to their growth and when you are empathetic to their needs, you then model a style of leadership that’s worth following.
A leader who listens to his people
When the people you lead know they can come to you and you will listen to them, you will have their hearts. It’s a great example of leadership when your people know you are attentive to their concerns and their voices are heard. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating – often the best ideas don’t flow out of your office, they flow into it.
A leader who elevates others
It’s sad to see leaders who elevate themselves off the backs of their people. It’s an abuse of leadership. You will set a positive example in leadership when you learn how to elevate your people, help them grow, and allow them to succeed. When you get your ego out of the way, your people can shine.
These are but a few ways in which you can set an example as a leader. It’s up to you to never stop growing, learning, and improving as a leader. Abraham Lincoln said, “I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” And this is our calling as leaders. Because if not me, who? And if not now, when?
©2021 Doug Dickerson