In 2015, I was fortunate enough to be sent to the FBI LEEDA Command Leadership Class. I did enjoy the class and the instructors were outstanding. The material was relevant and I learned a great deal….But, there was one small segment that had the most significant impact on me.
On the last day, there was a Captain from a corrections agency that said something that was pretty profound. He stated that he had been to several leadership courses and would always leave pumped up and ready to be a better leader and create positive change within his agency. But, he said that within two weeks, due to the agency’s culture and other factors, he would be right back to where he was mentally prior to the class. I also had a student at one of my command leadership classes that said he left my first-line supervisor class all pumped up, but he got the wind knocked out of his sails due to the amount of work that was waiting on him when he returned to his agency.
The reason I mention this is that we as LEADERS need to work hard to avoid losing our fire…our drive to make ourselves and our people better. In Robert Sutton’s “Good Boss, Bad Boss”, he talks about the five mindsets of effective leaders. One of them is Grit. This is a leader’s ability to stay the course and look at leadership as a marathon, not a sprint.
It is very easy to fall into a rut once you are comfortable with your position and things are moving smoothly. This is good if your goal is to be a manager. But if you want to be a leader, ruts are no place to be. Ruts inhibit vision. Ruts are easy and they do not require a lot of thinking or effort. It is easy to see why supervisors fall into this trap. In a way it’s efficient, right? The least amount of effort getting the desired output – management.
Well, I don’t teach management. I teach leadership. Leaders avoid ruts and spend time keeping their people out of ruts as well. To quote Tony Robbins, “if you are not growing, you are dying”. Leaders must have vision. They constantly look at their span of control (their bubble) and look for ways to make it better. Very good leaders will talk with their people to get their input on what should improve and how to do it. Good leaders are students of leadership and constantly look for ways to improve their leadership skills (training, books, articles, etc).
To keep the fire burning, we must constantly seek to improve ourselves and our people. This act requires effort. If you want to be a leader, know that there is work involved. I’m not saying that you must pull off astonishing changes and events to be deemed a leader. Even small events or changes can have significant effects on your span of control. As long as you are making the effort and steering clear of the rut, good things can happen.
To illustrate this point, here is one of my favorite TED talks:
I’ll conclude this post the way I end my leadership class – With Andy Andrews’s seven decisions. They have helped me in life and with leadership.
1. The buck stops with you. If your people (and yourself) are not improving, whose fault is it? IT IS YOUR FAULT! The buck stops with the leader.
2. Seek wisdom. Good leaders are not afraid to ask for help…especially from their subordinates.
3. Be a person of action. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, right? Again, to quote Tony Robbins, “knowledge is not power, it is potential power – action is power”. Have the vision to look for ways to make improvements and then have the courage to take the first step.
4. Have a decided heart – Again, have the courage to take the first step.
5. Choose to be happy. Yes, happiness is a choice. There are people who go through heart wrenching ordeals and still have the ability to be happy. Why? because they choose to be. Being happy will spread to your people and work/life will be better for them and you.
6. Have a forgiving spirit. I teach a whole section on emotional intelligence. One of the biggest mistakes people and supervisors make is that they hold grudges. This act is toxic. LET IT GO AND MOVE ON!
7. Lastly, but most importantly, stay the course and look at leadership as a marathon. Avoid ruts and be a symbol of inspiration for your people.
Here is a link to Andy’s book illustrating these points in a fictional tale: