What’s the point of leadership? Success? Wealth? Power? Ok, I spoiled it with the title. It’s PEOPLE! It’s always people. People are always the point of leadership. Why? Because leadership is about leading…people! If everyone is already seeing/thinking/doing something or they’re already going somewhere, guess who they don’t need?? A leader. Why? Because leadership is using your influence to move someone from where they are to somewhere better.
This leadership principle has so many implications. Here are the first 4, but there will be more to come!
1. People are not tools to be used.
A computer is a tool. An algorithm is a tool. Wealth is a tool. Having a platform is a tool. People are not tools. Tools are things used to accomplish goals/tasks/jobs. But people were not made to be used for anything. People have inherent value and dignity. And people know when someone (or an organization) is using them. They feel how devaluing and disheartening it is to be a means to someone else’s end. It’s icky. Even when they are well-compensated, it’s not worth it for the long-term. Highly educated specialists are still first people. If you don’t recognize this as a leader, you will fail to lead. Using people leads to low morale, high turnover, and a toxic culture which customers can smell when they walk through the door. We can do better.
2. People are not obstacles to be overcome.
Leaders tend to be vision-driven. They see possibility and potential, and they are internally motivated to make it a reality. As a leader, I love meeting other people with vision. I was on a date with my wife, Holly, at a new Korean restaurant and we met the chef. He described his vision for how he wanted to develop his menu and restaurant, and I was blown away by his passion and potential. He completely sold me! This chaotic world has a desperate need for visionary leadership. BUT, with big, bold vision comes the temptation to see people as obstacles to be overcome instead of people to be lead. If someone is resistant/opposed to your vision, your job as a leader is to influence them to move from where they are to somewhere better. The ends almost never justify the means if you’re knocking people down or pushing people aside in pursuit of your vision. This is especially true in leading at home. Kids can quickly seem like obstacles to our lives as parents. But our kids need compassionate leadership, too. We can do better.
3. People can change.
Instead of seeing people/kids as tools to be used or obstacles to be overcome, start developing a new vision for the people who have been entrusted to your leadership. Accomplishing a big, bold vision requires a new vision for the people around you. Here’s the good news: people can change. I’ve seen people make 180-degree changes in their lives. It’s incredible. I’ve seen opponents become staunch advocates. I’ve seen young leaders grow in their wisdom, skill, and bandwidth. I firmly believe there is hope for everyone to improve. But here’s the challenge for leaders: people don’t always change. Sometimes they just aren’t willing, or your vision may not capture them, or they may be in a season of life that makes it very difficult for them to change/grow (moving, having a baby, sick family member, etc.). And there’s a big difference between can’t and won’t. Some people could change but have chosen to remain static. But every person has the capacity to learn, grow, improve, and be transformed dynamically. Make that the purpose of your leadership—to help others develop. If they are willing to change, invest. Share your time, books, blogs, conferences, and principles. You have no idea what might be possible for you, your vision, and your organization/family if everyone you’re leading is growing.
4. People are the only legacy that matters.
At the end of the day, what do you want your legacy to be? Steve Jobs purportedly said, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” Wealth wasn’t the legacy that mattered to Jobs. It was the work done with people (“we’ve done” not “I’ve done”). And it was the “something wonderful” that made an enormous impact on people’s lives all over the world. You have an opportunity to leave a mark on this world. And the people you invest in and help grow will be your best legacy. Your influence list might include your kids, grandkids, and spouse; your employees, coworkers, and customers; young leaders in your field of work; or the next generation of people in the classroom, church, or even in your neighborhood.
See people not as tools or objects but as the point of leadership. Develop vision. Invest. Watch your legacy grow. People are always the point.
Who invested in you to help you grow as a leader?