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Leadership – Are You Giving Back

By Rick Johnson, Founder, CEO Strategist, LLC

We often talk about coaching and mentoring being key ingredients to effective leadership. Two thoughts come to my mind every time I hear the words – coach & mentor. My first thought is that it is very rare for any organization to provide actual training on how to coach or mentor employees. It is often left up to the individual as a leader to figure that out. My second thought is the realization that most of our actions toward our employees come naturally as a result of the kind of leadership model we have personally created.

The “Servant Mentality?”
Effective leaders build their models on the sum of their experiences, knowledge and deeds as well as their mistakes. This truth is at the core of learning how to be a winner instead of a survivor. Effective leaders go through a never ending development process that includes education, self study, training, experience and coaching and mentoring from one or several individuals that have a very positive influence on their personal development. After all, leadership defined is the ability to influence, inspire and motivate others to accomplish specific objectives. It includes creating a culture that helps direct the organization in such a way that it makes it cohesive and coherent keeping short-term tactical goals and objectives in alignment with long-term strategic initiatives.

With those thoughts in mind, I would like to ask you a few simple questions. Do you have a servant mentality? Are you committed to the development of the employees that surround you? Do you have the insight to feel and see the needs of those employees you are leading? Do you reach out with understanding and a willingness to help every individual realize their maximum potential?

These are tough questions. Questions that I doubt any individual can answer in the affirmative 100% of the time. Sometimes we have no idea how impactful our actions or our words as leaders can have on individual lives. Often times we never find out or we find out months, even years later how we affected someone else’s life. Zig Ziglar oftens says…. “You can get everything you want in life by helping others get what they want.” If you follow Zig’s advice it can be extremely satisfying.

The Rewards are Phenomenal
I often get feedback about my articles or ‘Off the Cuff’ tips that I send out bi-monthly. The majority are very complimentary and rewarding. Occasionally I’ll receive one that really touches my heart and helps me realize the power we have in the words we say and write. Let me share this e-mail with you as a way of demonstrating how reaching out to help others can be the most rewarding thing you can do as a leader.

Dear Mr. Rick
   I received an email from one of my wonderful friends with your article attached. He’s so wonderful because he knew I needed to read your article: “Wounded Wolves – The Journey Back”. I had just been crying for the loss of my son along with other problems that I have. But you know, you made me realize that nothing can happen if I don’t let it happen. And my life is in God’s hands and I should be worried about my next positive step towards making ME feel better about My LIFE. My life had been hell, really, before I read your words. My kids say that everything that has happened to them was my fault. But they need to accept that their life is what it is, BECAUSE OF THEIR ACTIONS AND NOT MINE. I’m 56 years old and all I’ve done all my life is work at jobs that didn’t pay me much, but I was happy. And that’s what counts for me. Now I have my own Travel Biz and I meet a lot of people. Most of them positive and those that are negative, I wean them out of my life. Right now I’m at my job but I want to tell you about my life. I want to write a book, but I don’t know the title or where to start. But maybe if I read your article again, it will inspire me even more. I want people like me to see that life doesn’t discriminate when it wants to take a child's life, from a mother, no matter what age. And there are other things that I go through in life that is normal. It’s what I do to learn from it, that’s what is important. Not to make as many mistakes as possible. After all, no one is perfect. I must think things out first, before I proceed. Thanks so much for helping me. You have no idea what your words mean to me.

C. H.

A Rare Opportunity
Sometimes we just don’t realize as leaders the rare opportunity we have to reach out and touch other people’s lives. This e-mail, along with several others, helped me understand more clearly how important our words and actions are in relationship to the people we may have an influence on. We must recognize the critical responsibility we accept as leaders and do everything in our power to have a positive influence on the development of our employees. You may have no idea how your words and actions are impacting the very lives of the people you lead.

Leaders Can be Found Everywhere
It doesn’t matter what your title is, whether you are a Supervisor, Sales Manager, Vice President, CFO, COO, President, CEO, Foreman, Lead Person or just an employee that really cares about doing a great job. It doesn’t matter how talented or educated you are, or how many people you know. If you are a leader, you will recognize the need to have a servant mentality. And, if you are a leader, you impact lives. Take that responsibility seriously.

Yes, you can learn skills to make you a better leader. You should definitely make a commitment to develop your leadership skills starting with coaching and mentoring. Effective leaders must go through a never-ending development process. We never stop learning and we never stop growing. You must develop or possess a unique understanding of people. The success of leadership in this process is directly influenced by the individual leaders’ beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills.

Remember This
Position and title may give you power, but power in itself does not make you an effective leader. You have an obligation as a leader to be the best you can be. There is too much at stake. Secondly, realize that you have a major obligation and a major responsibility to give. Give to those you lead. Give of yourself, your knowledge, your compassion and your understanding. Make a personal commitment to make every employee you have reach their maximum potential. Improve on that percentage often quoted by many human resource experts that less than 20% of all employees actually perform according to their potential. And finally, it’s about touching the lives of those around you with such a gentle kindness that your act will be remembered for years to come. Taking the time to listen to your own internal intuition, humbling yourself to do what you know is the right thing to do. And, if it makes you a little uncomfortable, recognize that is what having a servant’s mentality is all about. It’s selfless effective leadership at its best. This does not come naturally. It takes dedication, passion and commitment to the process.

Rick Johnson is Founder of CEO Strategist, an expert in wholesale distribution consulting and strategic leadership working with executives to create and maintain competitive advantage. As a veteran of the wholesale distribution industry with more than 30 years of executive management experience, he knows exactly what it takes to create leaders within a company, and how to maximize every sale to its full potential. Starting out on the ground floor, Rick spent the first 10 years of his career employed by the largest steel distributor in the world. Then challenging himself to take what he had learned and forge a venture of his own, he built a $25M wholesale distribution business in less than 10 years (before earning a college education!). After selling his business, Rick decided to share his success secrets by taking the helm of troubled businesses as a ‘turnaround’ expert. He helped set new directions for companies with revenue from $50M to $400M, leading them from loss to profit. More recently, Rick has brought his expertise to the business consultant arena, where he utilizes his unique formulas for making businesses profitable. For article feedback, contact Rick at rick@ceostrategist.com

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