Leadership for Life – The Real Leaders

By on May 15, 2013
Friendly Executives

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

So you made it to the corner office, you have the usual perks, and the title on the door. People call you “Sir” or “Ma’am” and you always get the last word. It’s good to be the Boss!

So why is it that your initiatives often take so long to implement or sometimes never get done at all? Why does your work team or organization seem to be bogged down in friction and inertia? Could it be that despite all the trappings of leadership, you don’t really have all that much power and influence?

Here’s a story that goes back a long way. When I was in college, I worked as a camp counselor in the Poconos. In my first summer, I worked with an experienced co-counselor, Lee, who taught me an important lesson. Any time we wanted to get a cabin full of kids to move in the same direction – even when it was a desirable direction (like the mess hall) – I found myself repeating myself over and over again, and finally raising my voice (as if they didn’t hear me the first time).

Lee first asked who I thought was the kid in the group the rest of the boys looked up to. He was easy to identify – it was Gordy. Then Lee suggested that any time we wanted the kids to get going somewhere, I should put my arm around Gordy, propel him along, and then calmly announce, “We’re going . . .” Three things were happening here:

First, by moving Gordy along, the rest of the kids naturally followed their “indigenous leader.” Secondly, Gordy was getting some special attention from me and allowed himself to be propelled. Finally, when I announced, “We’re going . . .” the information was active, not passive (Let’s go). Over all, the result was that we were able to get a herd of cats moving in the same direction in a timely manner with much less sturm und drang.

The lesson to be learned is that when you want to implement change or introduce something new in an organization, begin with the indigenous leader, a peer the rest of the work team looks up to. Tell him/her that you value their input and you’d like some help with initiating something new or making a change in an established procedure. Then announce to the group that a change is happening (not will happen). Once the group learns that their indigenous leader is on board, implementation will be rapid and relatively smooth.

A major advantage to you is that you only have to convince one person at the beginning, and you can then allow him/her to convince everyone else. Less effort for you, and more commitment from the group, since the idea appears to originate from one of them. Still works with kids, too. Try it, you’ll like it.

Questions? I’m at the usual place: bschapiro@stlcc.edu or 314-539-5329.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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