12 Most Gratifying Leadership Gifts
Choosing to lead is an act of courage and compassion.
I’m not talking about changing the words that follow your name on a business card. I’m talking about true leadership: serving your team, investing in them, and influencing a group of people to come together and do something greater than they imagined individually.
This kind of authentic leadership is challenging and sometimes it comes with stress and isolation born of passion, commitment, and tough choices.
It’s easy to focus on those challenges and forget the amazing privileges that come with real leadership. To help renew our courage, compassion, and commitment, as the United States celebrates its Thanksgiving holiday, I offer: 12 Most Gratifying Leadership Gifts.
1. Everything anyone does for you is a gift
This is a life-changing leadership truth when you fully comprehend it: Nearly everything people do is a choice.
Your team members don’t have to work with you. They don’t have to give their best effort. They don’t have to get work done when they’re feeling less than 100%.
They don’t have to. They choose to.
Even if they’re not aware they have a choice, as their leader you know they do.
When you show up to your team every day with the full awareness that each of them has chosen to be there, chosen to work alongside you, chosen to contribute their talents and time… it changes how you lead, how you serve, and how you draw the best out of every person.
2. You get to change the world
Whether you’re leading a nonprofit, your family, a community group, a sales team, a product development team, a distribution team, or are CEO of a multinational corporation, you are in the business of changing the world.
I can hear the objections now: “But I just make/sell/shuffle… whatever it is we do…”
Stay with me here — you don’t just do anything.
First, if you are working with people, you impact their lives. How you lead your team impacts how they go home every day and the energy they bring to their families and communities.
You impact their future far beyond the time they spend on your team. They will carry the motivation, skills, and leadership you provide into their careers and into the teams they lead.
(And that’s before we even talk about the product or service you provide!)
Second, your products and services do affect people’s lives. As a leader, you get to influence how this happens.
Recently I was speaking to a group of sales professionals and there was a gentleman in attendance who had prototyped an innovative tip for caulking-guns. Something as relatively small and simple as a caulking gun tip can make life easier for people, reduce waste, and improve energy efficiency.
And that’s just caulking tips! Whatever you’re doing has the potential to make the world a better place — if you lead in that direction.
3. Your influence can outlive you
Effective leaders invest in others and cultivate leadership in their team members. That influence multiplies far into the future as the leaders you helped begin to help others and they in turn continue the chain.
Now that is lasting significance!
4. You get to see people succeed
There is little in life to compare with the look of confidence, serenity, and accomplishment that comes when someone you’ve been helping has that breakthrough moment and realizes they CAN.
A few of those moments will fuel you through many tough times.
5. You get to grow
It’s a leadership cliché — “leaders are learners.”
Some things are cliché because they express fundamental truths. This is one of those.
Every effective leader I’ve ever met communicates the same thing: they are amazed at how much smarter they are now compared to last month, last year, or last decade.
If you want to be good at it, leading others forces you to learn, to hear uncomfortable things, to challenge yourself, and to grow.
6. You get to leave fear behind
I spend a lot of time speaking about why fear is an ineffective leadership tool. When you use fear, you’re asking your team to give you their very minimum effort and not a sliver more.
You can easily spot fear-motivated teams: everyone is “tight,” there is little innovation or creativity (people are scared to take a risk), there’s not a lot of laughter or joy, and you don’t see “above and beyond” passion or effort.
So many leaders rely on fear because they are fearful themselves — of failure, of being exposed, of being a hypocrite.
And yet, effective leaders overcome those fears and stop relying on fear as a leadership tool. Consequently, they build engaged, motivated teams who take responsibility, problem solve, and innovate.
7. You get to help people
Many research studies have revealed the physical and emotional benefits we experience when we help others. These include feeling stronger, increased energy, a sense of calm, decreased depression, and reduced anxiety.
These are gifts you can give yourself when you practice servant leadership.
8. You get to experience team
There is little that compares to the transcendent feeling of being a part of something that is bigger than your self.
If you’ve ever worked in a high-functioning team, you experienced that sense of trust, commitment, and life where everyone makes everyone else that much better.
As a leader, you don’t just get to experience this — you get to build it!
9. You learn to be authentic
Many people go through life wearing masks. We adopt a persona to make our parents happy or to satisfy a romantic partner or to get friends. I’m not talking about learning decent social manners… I’m talking about a false exterior we think helps us.
At some point in your leadership journey, you’ll realize that this mask is preventing you from being effective. If you want your team to commit their hearts to the mission, you’ve got to reveal yours.
What do you believe in? What are you passionate about? What do you believe your team can do? Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Effective leadership drives you to authenticity — where you lead from a central core of very real values and passion.
10. You get to see innovation bloom
I love the spring when the fruit trees blossom. It’s a marvelous sight after months of dreary cold, these clouds of perfumed whites, reds, and pinks hovering above the city streets.
Watching creativity happen is a little like that — in the bleak winter of a problem it seems too complex, solutions evade your grasp, and you wonder if you’ll ever figure it out.
But then, you give the team the tools they need to innovate: you define the problem, you create criteria that must be satisfied, you make it safe to explore ideas, and look for ways things CAN happen, and…
Voila! Creativity and innovation burst into life.
(and you get to watch!)
11. You learn to appreciate strength
Most leaders start their journey by trying to correct weakness — in themselves and in others.
That is a dead-end path that only frustrates you and your team.
Effective leaders learn that only strength produces anything.
They learn to operate out of their own strengths, to nourish, encourage and make productive the strengths of others. No one less than Peter Drucker said that this is a leader’s fundamental work.
In a world where David Brock tells us that every year people receive only minutes of positive feedback compared with thousands of hours of negative feedback, it is a rare gift to be able to appreciate your own strengths and the strengths of others.
12. You release power
As I was writing this post, I received an email that took my breath away.
It was from an accomplished professional who has a wealth of experience, knowledge, and wisdom in his field. He has led many organizations and is a pleasure to work with. When he becomes available, he is privileged to have people line up asking if he’ll come work for them. (And these things were all true before we did any work together.)
His email said simply: “Thank you for believing in me.”
No matter how talented and amazing you or your people are, we all benefit from having someone believe in us.
Your belief in others unlocks their belief in themselves.
As a C.B.O. (Chief Belief Officer!) you release power.
And that’s worth celebrating, don’t you think?
I would love to hear you gratifying leadership gifts — let’s fill the comments with:
As a leader, what are you most grateful for?
Thinking about a leader in your life, what did they do for which you are particularly thankful?
Featured image courtesy of torbakhopper licensed via Creative Commons.