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Defining a Leader - Feb. 8, 2021

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

My unedited thoughts one winter day:

Have we been sanitized by the abundance of information at our fingertips, all forms of media, easily-accessible videos regarding anything you can imagine and cannot imagine, and real-time satiation of needs (thanks, Amazon). This isn’t a new discourse, but it is one that I wish to share my thoughts on, specifically as it relates to leadership.

It is not often that we see people passionately upholding values or defending honor. The popular attitude has metamorphosed into a sort of laissez-faire, nihilistic approach defined as “cool”. Anyone or anything that challenges the status quo is a nuisance to be ignored; trendsetters are reserved for those who already wield the power. It has been evidenced that people today often cannot recite their values at request, or they recite common-known values that they believe they should have, but yet they live in an unconscious cognitive dissonance, whereby their actions and words react to their surroundings in an ever-changing response to survive in our digital age with some sense of dignity. Our actions and words are not upheld in society as they once were. We do not live in small communities, whereby our word actually means something and can be held against us. We live in the internet where we can anonymously portray a hundred identities if we wish. We do not live in closely connected families, whereby our actions are challenged, and we must be held accountable. We move out when we are 18 and often have already disconnected ourselves from our family before high school. We react to each moment. This is great for survival in our digital era, but it also causes us to be full of regret and overly wishful for a better tomorrow. After all, even sins can be absolved.

I’ve never lived in any other time than now, so maybe life has never been full of honor. Maybe honor is just for books and movies.

How can we, as a society, uphold our values daily when there is no one to hold us accountable? Our own spouses cannot see our integrity, because what we do on the computer is a mystery. No one is reading our every email or reviewing our every visited website. The only one who can truly hold ourselves accountable is our self. However, we can help each other by working as a leadership team. A team that is dedicated to upholding certain values and being leaders for each other. A team does not require one leader. That is the traditional way of thinking. Everyone in the team can be a leader. Everyone can help each other grow. After all, you’re only as strong as the weakest link.

Too often, I see people treating life, and ultimately work, as a game to gain monetary wealth. They use everyone around them in very clever, manipulative ways to achieve success for themselves; success in their definition being 'more money'. The best are smooth talkers; they truly make you feel like they are humble, they are helping you, they care about you. I dream of society where people are not motivated by money but rather growth. Growth could be spiritual, professional, personal, etc., but it implies growth of the society as a whole. Of course, this is a huge topic with many facets. Let’s focus on leadership. Our motivation at work does not need to come from monetary gains or titles. It could come from believing in a purpose and utilizing our strengths comparatively to achieve the objectives that promote our purpose. I am motivated by great leaders. Poor leaders demotivate me. They make me want to run for the door. Why? Time. My time is the most valuable thing I have. I do not want to spend time on a purpose I do not believe in or for a leader who does not motivate me out of passion. Allegiance is powerful, but often not cultivated in the workplace. Companies are often trying to figure out how to retain employees. An answer that is obvious to me is developing true leaders and a work environment to be proud of. Take a look at any company, look at its culture, look at its people – people transform to fit the culture with time. People are impressionable, but are they happy? When they retire, are they proud?

Thoughts on a leader who I would be motivated by:

· Proactively coaches and mentors.

· Realizes that the success of the team translates to the success of the business and self.

· Provides constructive feedback real-time but in private.

· Includes resources in bigger picture discussions and work, proposals, strategy.

· Takes time to make sure discussions and work is understood (e.g. follow-ups after calls).

· Actively listens and practices WAIT (Why Am I Talking or Why Am I Teaching).

· Doesn’t gossip.

· Careful with words.

· Takes time for teamwork and social time.

· Will share train of thought, opinions, ideas - to show how they view work, situations and strategize.

· Push and challenge.

· Gives space and flexibility.

· Let’s people grow at their speed but helps set realistic goals.

· Embraces values such as self-expression, inclusion, show how to fish (self-reliance), immediacy, participation.

· Introduces to network and exposes to areas that will help raise curiosity and help career.

· Empowers.

· Does not try to validate themselves, does not name drop.

· No fluff talk, no lengthy talk, gets to the point - art of execution.

· Appreciates and rewards curiosity, exploration - helps guide instead of shut down.

Don’t expect anything from anyone. We are alone at the end of the day. Expect that, that people will look after number one.

When a person in power puts expectations on people, you have to stop and ask: What are their intentions? There are workplace expectations that apply to everyone such as showing up on time and working an honest day’s work. Those are integral to the operations and not driven by other motivations. Then there are those driven by biases – expectations for people to behave or perform the same way that the person in power does or to an arbitrary standard chosen by that person. This suffocates creativity, individualism, and equality. To avoid, a leader works to understand people – what motivates them, why they operate the way they do, their train of thought on a matter of disagreement. Another pitfall that people of power may fall into is assuming that their favorite or high performing employees have skillsets that they actually do not possess, putting too much trust in them or giving too much credit – again, a leader would take time to understand the individual and be supportive of their true skillset.

The biggest pitfall – assuming they know people, assuming they know what a good leader is – those people wouldn’t take time to read this article because 'they already know the contents', or if they did read it, they wouldn’t self-reflect on actual circumstances in their life and challenge their beliefs. Play devil’s advocate with yourself and ask: “What if I am blind to this? Is this me?” Apply the scenario, believe it is a fault of yours, and see where it shows up in your life – then change it. Reach out to people if needed, create reminders to work on the change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Be humble enough to admit it is something you are working on. Drop the ego. Just because you are in a position of power, does not make you a leader, does not make you sovereign over others. Outside of the office, in a pub down the street, you are just another patron. We must strive to be a team. We each have our roles to play, but the production won’t be a success if we want people to perform the same role that we do or if we steal all the lines and don’t let others speak.

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