It is quite convenient that I have had random conversations about leadership around the same time that I wrote my last post What Is A Leader, Really? At the end of that post, I concluded that a leader is no one special, but also the most important. So how can a leader be no one special but also the most special? They have the most currency to spend.
When I say “currency,” I’m not talking about money. It has been proven over and over again that money does not buy happiness. Happiness and satisfaction are not tangible things and cannot be paid for. Don’t get me wrong, money is a big part of why people work, but it is not the main reason people stay.
A leader, to me, is someone who has a vision and acts on that vision with consistency. There are lots of things that leaders DO, but that is all that a leader IS. That is why I am comfortable saying that a leader is not a “special person.” That definition can apply to everyone in different ways in different scenarios. One of the key reasons I prefer this definition is that it takes the pressure to be out in front off the leader. When you are a leader, there are going to be times when letting someone else drive the bus is most consistent with the vision.
There is something special that happens when a leader takes their sticky little hands off the wheel and lets the best driver take the wheel. The best way I can describe it is that Respect is born. Our common mistake is to believe that once we give our driver’s seat up, we will no longer be the leader. That is not the case. I will admit that you will give up some of your sole ownership. So, if you’re an ego maniac and can’t let others succeed in tandem with you, this will cause you more problems than fix. (This will be my next post on leaders.)
The birth of respect is like a flower pushing through the soil. The vision set by the leader is a seed of hope in the employee, but the employee will not trust or believe it fully. That is okay. Most people have had more negative leadership experiences than positive, so they are going to reference their past to anticipate the future. If the vision is good, they will give it a shot though. As soon as the leader demonstrates their conviction to the cause, a willingness to forgo ego for achieving the vision, the employee will shift in their perspective and give the leader a greater opportunity to prove they are committed to the vision that everyone agrees is good. The respect of the employees will grow with each action that is consistent with the vision. This turns into a sort of interpersonal deposit of funds. The more you deposit, the more you have, the more you can screw up. No one is perfect. We are going to have bad days. We are going to have outside forces redirect our efforts off course temporarily. These deposits of respect allows you grace and forgiveness. Just like a checking account though, once you over draft, you are in big trouble.
Once you have achieved enough respect currency from enough people, it turns into something like generational wealth. You can screw up big, but because of what you established prior, you will only fall so far. I call this loyalty. Loyalty, much like generational wealth, is the ultimate goal of a leader. You know you have achieved this when after you leave your position, the people still hold on to the good ole’ days when they got to work with you.
What is currency of a leader? It is a history of consistent decision making that all the people around you can take to the bank.