Listen to the audio if you prefer. It’s 16:09 long.
The price of greatness is responsibility.”
— Winston Churchill
You’re a leader. You’re a manager. You have authority and power in the workplace. And the reason you have that authority and power is because it’s been entrusted to you. Somebody – maybe a group of somebody’s (like a board) – believes in you, in your skill, in your experience and in the results you can deliver. Yes, you should be proud.
You should also be very cautious!
Be careful that it doesn’t go to your head.
Be careful that you think your current position is permanent.
Be careful that you’re work is now complete.
Be careful that you don’t take your opportunities for granted.
Be careful that you quit working hard to grow and become better.
For as long as I can remember I have heard people give this exhortation…
If it is to be, it’s up to me!”
I’ve no idea who first said that, but it really is quite brilliant because deep down we all know it’s true. Whether we’re given to excuse-making or not, we know that we have to take responsibility for our own lives. But, as leaders we have an even wider scope of influence and our responsibility widens with it.
Let me make one subtle, but important distinction between leadership and management.
Leadership involves PEOPLE. Management involves PROCESSES, or if you please, THE WORK.
Keep that in mind as we move forward. Others might view it differently, but after 35 years of leading and managing multi-million dollar enterprises, that’s my view. It’s my conclusion about these two terms. That’s why I began by calling you both a leader and a manager…because you are! And you’re capable of both roles. Executive coaching isn’t a remedial process. Rarely am I commissioned to help somebody because they’re in trouble. Mostly, my clients are high achievers worthy of top-level help. And high achievers worthy of top-level help bear a heavier burden of responsibility.
Your Responsibility To Your Organization
Your position exists because the organization needs what you bring to the party. Without your position – and without YOU in that position – your organization suffers a gap in performance. While I’d love to tell you that you’re irreplaceable, you’re not. None of us are. But don’t despair because that doesn’t mean you’re not highly valuable. Nor does it mean you’d be easy to replace!
By serving the organization you best serve those who are served by your organization. You may call them patrons, customers, fans, citizens or a variety of other terms…but they’re all people. People who rely on your organization for service and products. People who depend on your organization to serve them well. You contribute to that because of your commitment to your organization.
It means that right now you’re in this role with a big responsibility to serve your organization faithfully. This is YOUR TIME. Make the most of it. Make a difference.
Your Responsibility To Your Direct Reports
It doesn’t matter how many direct reports you’ve got, every leader/manager has an inner circle of people who depend on him for guidance, support, correction, accountability and growth. Those are tall orders, but that’s why you’re the leader. Not just anybody can do this job. Not just anybody wants to do this job.
These people are crucial to your performance. Without them, you’re unable to make a difference. All your contributions ultimately stem from the performance of the people on your team. If they are all exceptional performers, then you’re an exceptional performer. If they stumble and fall, so do you.
Unfortunately, this where so many leaders get all messed up. Their ego gets in their way. Selfishness sets in. A big-headed mindset takes over and some begin believing they’re more important than their team. Extraordinary leaders don’t fall into that trap. They never forget that the people they must serve daily are those team members who do the daily heavy lifting. Are you extraordinary? Simply by being here – right here, right now – the odds are high that you are indeed. Else, you wouldn’t likely be here working with me.
Treat your team as though your professional life depends on it…because it does. Getting work done through others is the mandate of your life as an executive. That doesn’t mean you don’t have work you must do. It just means your first “internal” customers are the people who make up your team. They have to be upfront and on your mind as you do your work. It’s your job to meet their needs. Sometimes it means you need to show them, train them, teach them. Sometimes it may mean you need to be stern to correct poor behavior or performance. It always means you’re supportive to help them – to serve them. And they must know it. It’s urgent (and important) that they all know your primary goal is to help them achieve as much success as possible.
Your Responsibility To Yourself
All of this fails if you don’t bear the burden to take care of yourself. Many leaders/managers neglect their health opting to work long hours, overindulging in poor habits and failing in their private lives. How does neglecting to be your best in life help you lead or manager better? It doesn’t. Let me encourage you to shoulder the responsibility to yourself. Take care of yourself. There are people depending on you and they deserve you at your best.
Let’s end this session with the another responsibility…one that coincides with the responsibility you have to yourself. I bring it up here because we’ve now had some time together (either online or offline or both). By now I’ve likely got some idea of how seriously you take this. I know you’re busy. I know there are millions (okay, thousands) of distractions. Even so, this work is about YOU. It’s an investment in YOU.
You can’t outsource it. You can’t surrender it to somebody else.
Garbage in, garbage out. We usually think of that when it comes to computers, but it has a much broader application. Namely, our lives.
I want to cheer you on to be more aggressive in investing in yourself. Yes, I want to take our work seriously – just don’t take yourself (or me) too seriously. The journey is an exploration, but like all explorations it requires some work. It’s fun work, but it’s still work. Don’t avoid it. Don’t put it off. Because when you do, you’re putting off investing in yourself. That won’t benefit you. Doing the work is what will benefit you and look at all the other people who will be served because you’re growing!
Make your personal and professional life a priority. As Jack Welch often said while running GE, “Control your own destiny, or somebody else will.”