#035- People Who Need People - that's YOU, my friend. Leadership is not about YOU. It's all about PEOPLE. The people you work with. The people who look to you as their leader. The people you serve. Join Dr. Charles Boyer for a look at what serving as a leader to other people is all about.
Hello and welcome to Keys for New Leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s most certainly YOU, my friend. Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve joined us for this podcast. Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about. In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing ideas, helpful hints, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way.
This is Episode #35, and I intended at first to call it “People Power” but the more I thought about it, the title just didn’t fit. So I’ve titled this episode “People Who Need People.” Sound familiar? No, it’s not about the famous Barbra Streisand song, but it does have a similar message: Leaders are people who need to serve other people. You need people. Simon Sinek wrote that “Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of those in your charge.” People Who Need People – that’s YOU, my friend.
There are far too many leadership quotes, slogans, articles, WORDS to count. The simplest and most direct one I’ve found really says it all in a nutshell: Leadership is not about YOU. It’s all about PEOPLE. The people you work with. The people who look to you as their leader. The people you serve.
It's not about YOU. You need people to lead. We are hard-wired to need others. Being around others contributes to our own good health. Our brains seem to work better when we work together with others. Even when we’re around people who drive us crazy, we grow personally from the interactions. On the other hand, being lonely has been linked to some decline in physical and emotional health.
Irvin Yalom, a psychotherapist, wrote: “People need people – for initial and continued survival…No one – not the dying, not the outcast, not the mighty – transcends the need for human contact.”
And yet, the “it’s lonely at the top” model of leadership persists. It’s time – way past time, in my opinion – to move past that top-down model. You need people in order to serve as a leader. And you need to inspire and encourage those people to be the very best that they can be. I admire the example of leadership described by Benjamin Zander, illustrating the role of the orchestra conductor. Zander wrote that the conductor makes no sound, but makes music with and through the talents of others. What a great example of good leadership – working with and through the talents of others to get great results. That model of leadership could be used in so many situations. Think about it – how would this work for you?
We’ve been through a lot these past couple of years. The isolation during the pandemic, hybrid work models, supply chain interruptions – stressful times indeed. And there are continuing problems with finding enough people to work in several vital fields. It’s encouraging to note that many top executives are honing their people skills to connect better with others, building the trust and credibility they need to lead effectively in these challenging and changing times. People need people.
So just what does all that mean for YOU as a servant leader? Well, it means, my friend, that YOU must make a commitment to becoming the leader that people want to follow. Notice I said “becoming” the leader rather than “being” the leader. To me, that’s important because the word “becoming” implies that you are always trying to get better at leading, you never just “be.” It’s a long journey, and there are always more things to learn – about working with others, and about yourself. Warren Bennis wrote that “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” That simple and at the same time, that difficult. Wise words indeed!
Becoming a leader – I like the way that sounds, don’t you? Becoming a leader who serves others isn’t the easiest job in the world. It takes a huge commitment of your time and energy, as well as the determination to work with and through the talents of others to help them become the best they can be. It takes a huge commitment, also, to rein in your ego and let others shine. It’s not about YOU. It's all about PEOPLE. People want to follow a leader whom they can trust, one who is a good communicator, one who recognizes and rewards their best efforts, and one whose ego takes a back seat to the team. That’s quite a tall order! Maybe we should add “…faster than a speeding bullet…more powerful than a locomotive…able to leap tall buildings at a single bound…”. Sorry – that last bit is a holdover from watching too many Superman shows years ago. The point is that it takes a lot of commitment and determination and yes, humility, to lead by serving others. And if you can succeed at making the most difficult task look easy, you are well on your way to becoming a gifted leader, indeed.
I’m sure that at one time or another, we’ve all had bosses that we would consider the opposite of a good leader. And we can stereotype a few of the most flagrant examples: (1) the tyrant, the “General Bullmoose” model of the boss who wants everything done his way or the highway; (2) the “Gotcha” boss, who hides in the weeds and pounces gleefully on every mistake; (3) or the two-faced boss who says one thing and does another. Well, these are bosses, not leaders. While we can learn something by holding these up as bad examples. – examples of what NOT to be – we aren’t gaining much in the way of positive examples to learn from. People don’t need bosses. People need leaders. And good people need good leaders.
Becoming that good leader that others want to follow isn’t easy. Here are some suggestions to help you get started: Take a look at some of the many books, articles, workshops, top ten lists on leadership and try not to be overwhelmed. Look for some common threads, similarities, themes, and you’ll begin to recognize patterns of characteristics, behaviors, and traits that begin to resonate with you. Notice those traits and qualities that attract your attention, and ask yourself where these show up in your life. These aren’t things you can check off a to-do list, but things that can guide you to becoming a leader who serves others.
Here's one example: I ran across an excellent article by Michael Stagno, “How to be a Leader that People Want to Follow.” His first point was “Visionary Leadership.” OK, good – today I’ll do visionary leadership and people will want to follow me. Not so fast there, my friend! It’s not something you can try on like a new shirt. It’s something you become – over time, with lots of practice and a lot of attention to all that entails. It has to become a part of you. Visionary leadership means that you have a clear vision of the goal, the end result, and that you can communicate that vision to every member of your team clearly and convincingly, so that everyone can contribute to making that vision become a reality. Something as easy as President Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon within 10 years, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Easy, right? Not so’s you notice, as Grandma used to say. Or as Yogi Berra might have said it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Another quality or trait of good leadership that appears frequently is: Lead by Example. In a very few words, that sure says a mouthful, doesn’t it? Lead by Example. It sounds so simple, but it isn’t. If you expect your team to show up on time, it means that YOU get there first. If you expect high quality work from your team, demonstrate that high quality in your own work, day after day. If you want others to respect you, show that you respect others. Not once or twice – ALWAYS! There’s a slogan that appears often that sounds like another throw-away catch phrase, but it has a world of truth in it: Be the kind of leader you would want to follow. Sounds easy – but what an enormous commitment of YOU that implies. People need good examples of leaders to follow. People need good people to be with, to become. People who need people – that’s YOU, my friend. Become that good leader that others will want to follow.
You’ll find other lists of qualities, traits, and characteristics of good people leaders in many places. You can’t do or be them all. Look for the ones that appear most often: good communication skills, empathy, adaptability, transparency, positive feedback, and so on. I’m not making light of these. They are all important qualities, traits, characteristics. But again, they are not things you can check off your to-do list or buy a pound of it at the store. These are good things to work toward, to practice, to become. Everyone is different. Focus on those traits that you feel drawn to or that feel a part of you and make a commitment to yourself to develop those traits as a part of who you are.
And, above all else, remember that all-important philosophy of servant leadership: It’s not about YOU. It’s all about PEOPLE. People who need People – that’s YOU, my friend. And how lucky you are!
And now, here are three questions, just for you. They are open-ended questions for you to think about and maybe challenge you just a little bit. Here they are:
1. Think of a leader you would want to follow. What traits or characteristics of that person do you most admire?
2. Where does “Lead by Example” show up in your life?
3. What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a leader? How do you demonstrate that to others?
That SPECIAL KEY for this episode is the Key of B for Become. Become the leader that you wish you had. Become the leader that you would want to follow. Become the leader that others will want to follow.
Our next episode will be titled: ARE YOU LISTENING? Hearing and listening are two different things and sometimes we don’t seem to know the difference. We hear so much more than we listen to. We featured listening in a couple of previous episodes, and we’ll take another run at it next time. Listening is one of the most important of all leadership skills and it’s one we often don’t pay attention to as much as we should.
Join me next time, won’t you? I hope you’ll really LISTEN to the next episode! Until then, stay safe and well, my friend, and … practice becoming.