In Leadership, Teamwork, Trust, Wednesday Wisdom

Leadership behaviors surround us. Note the most unconventional sources.

For me, the most realistic and accurate description of leadership is one of a journey, rather than a destination. My observations of great leaders indicate that we don’t just become a leader one day and then, henceforth, carry out our duties as leaders. Rather, each situation presents itself as a choice to respond like a leader – or not.

This can make leadership an elusive and sometimes nebulous construct to define. Even a great definition doesn’t always describe exactly what it looks like in action. As Jocko Willink and Leif Babin describe in their book, The Dichotomy of Leadership:

“Every leader must walk a fine line. . . Leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities, between one extreme and another. The simple recognition of this is one of the most powerful tools a leader has. With this in mind, a leader can more easily balance opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”

I love this description because it implies good leaders know that following standard protocol is extremely important, until common sense would indicate that’s no longer the case. It’s knowing when the team will be motivated by aggressive deadlines and stretch goals, and knowing when they need a break.

I’m also fond of Brene Brown’s definition from Dare to Lead because it implies action:

“I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

Despite the ‘softness’ of either definition, I’m certain that all of us know leadership when we see it. Or, at the very least, we know it when we feel it: when someone goes above and beyond to help us, when we know someone else is looking out for our best interests, when a supervisor or coworker connects with us or “gets us” beyond our role at work.

To me, this picture is a PERFECT example of leadership behaviors. Perhaps originating from an unconventional source. I am thankful for the quick reaction time and opportunity to have captured this moment.

Some context: With very little prior exposure to the sport, my son decided to go out for wrestling as freshman. That’s right. Wrestling. First time ever. Freshman. The courage – and my feelings around his decision – probably warrants an entire post of its own. But, hopefully, as this post will confirm, it was one of his best decisions ever.

This picture is a minute or two before his first tournament match of the day. His teammates are surrounding him, encouraging him, and one of them, physically helping him get ready to compete. I was blown away. In part, because of my own narrow focus. My life work is in the leadership arena, and I’ll be honest, I can’t say that I regularly look to teenage boys as examples of behavior we ought to emulate. My loss.

In part, also, because this entire exchange/series of events only lasted a short time. Maybe less than 20 seconds. It wasn’t orchestrated. No one told them to go help their teammate. They recognized a need for support and -chose- in that moment to be leaders.

I’m reminded, in witnessing this awesome example of connecting, helping, encouraging, and LEADING, that most ‘leadership’ happens in small, potentially insignificant moments, and often has nothing to do with a title. These young men, in that moment, made a choice – and had an incredibly positive and meaningful impact on another person’s experience.

What other unconventional examples of leadership have you witnessed?




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