To those of you for whom today is the sacred day of Easter, I wish you a very Happy Easter.
For the rest of you, I hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend.
When people ask me what I do, I usually tell them I’m an entrepreneur. But in truth, what I am is a leader. An imperfect, maturing leader, but a leader nonetheless. Sometimes the fact that many of us are leaders before we are entrepreneurs gets lost because it’s really weird and socially inappropriate to refer to yourself as a leader. However leadership is the core of what I believe is my purpose. Last week was one of those weeks that reminded me that this is what I actually do.
Lately, I’ve been talking a lot about culture as the primary purpose of leadership. Culture is an embodiment of the values and principles in an organization, and a great leader develops a culture in such a way that it is vibrant even when the leader is absent. Building a culture is extremely difficult, and it takes a long time to stick. Also, if the leader is the founder, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will truly replace the cultural aspirations that the founder has. So the bar is often too high for most others in the organization. This is typical and probably normal.
There will be times when the bar is too high and the leader will be confronted with a choice. Either roll up sleeves and cover the distance with the people, or look at the people with disdain and wonder why they don’t meet the full embodiment of the vision. I’ve seen this moment happen over and over again at times when I was not the leader and times when I was. When I was the leader… I did not always make the right choice, and their is always a right choice here.
Leaders don’t always have to be liked, but they do have to always be thoughtful. Leaders don’t always have to say what the people want to hear, but they do need to say it in a way that the people will hear them. Leaders have to lead. Seems like common sense, but man is it hard.
Last week was one of those weeks for me. The easy part of leadership is high fives, gifts and celebrations for a job well done. What defines a great leader, is both how they respond when it’s clear things aren’t quite on track, and how they communicate that to their people. If done well, the people might not even notice the severity of the situation.
You always have a choice in how you treat your people. When your organization isn’t performing at the level you believe it should, start with yourself. How can you be a greater living embodiment of the culture and ideals? How can you inspire? How can you develop more leadership in the people?
Here’s a hint… It will probably look like increased service to the organization and increased mentorship to your team. And a little bit of kindness.
To your path as a leader… and to the grind,