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Make Your Leadership Your Life and Your Life Your Leadership

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

If ‘leadership’ has come to be known as something much bigger than us, aligned to changing the world, then we spend way too much time celebrating things that hardly anyone can do and not celebrating things we can do every day. - Drew Dudley

Companies facing global competition are expecting more from all employees, more initiative, more innovation, and more results.

Critical to meeting these expectations is leadership. The word "leadership" comes from an old Norse word meaning "to make go." Leadership is needed in organizations to make things go, to muster and coordinate direction, ardent commitment, and resource alignment.

Working with thousands of leaders of all ranks and functions during the past 21 years, I have seen that most leaders consider leadership exclusively an on-the-job dynamic. They do not see it as a life dynamic.

Companies looking for more from their employees must promote leadership that delivers more, and that leadership can only have more if it is effective both on and off the job.

If you do not make your leadership your life and your life your leadership, you diminish both your leadership and your life.

The reasons are simple. The best leaders build a deep, human, emotional connection with the audience. Why is that necessary to achieve organizational results? Leadership is not about getting people to do what they want to do. Leaders would not be needed if people had to do what they wanted. Instead, leadership is about getting people to do what they do not wish to do and is committed to doing it. These people have a good chance of achieving many more results, achieving those results faster, and achieving "more, faster" continually. One may tyrannically order people to get results. Still, the effectiveness of such leadership is not as consistent nor significant as having people make the free choice to get results. And people will make that free choice in an environment where deep, human, emotional relationships are developed.

Look at the leaders in your life. I am sure you have been at the receiving end of both the tyrants and those with whom you have had profoundly beneficial relationships. Weren't you more likely to go all out for those leaders who promoted an environment in which those better relationships flourished?

That is an environment one should look to set up in one's relationships. Your leadership development can be like the relationships you should create in your life outside your job. In my many seminars on the Leadership Talk, I have seen people use my processes outside their job, with their spouses, friends, children, etc.

Many values should be promoted in our lives: trust, honesty, integrity, coming through on commitments, fairness, tenacity, tolerance, and more. Let us use "trust" as one example.

Let us live a life of trusting others. I call it "living in trust." Of course, trust can be taken too far, and we may open ourselves up to be deceived and betrayed. My wife says I often trust others too much, and I have paid in many ways for such a propensity in my lifetime. If we rely too much on it, we will suffer more if we do not trust it enough.

Living in trust means extending trust without conditions until that trust is betrayed. And then, depending on the circumstances, we may continue to develop confidence even if it is crossed. When it is betrayed, we may not necessarily be the poorer for it. We may indeed be richer; without faith, we cannot establish deep relationships.

My view of trust in life can be extended to leadership. Leadership is about getting continual increases in impressive results. To do that, leaders must engender trust in the people they lead. Remarkable results cannot be gained without solid bonds of trust between the leader and the people.

I have often said that a leader should buy the Brooklyn Bridge for a nickel rather than sell it for one. You will not lead people to do extraordinary things unless they trust you, but they will not charge you unless they know you are taking the risk to trust them. Many organizations get into trouble when the people do not trust or stop trusting their leaders and when their leaders stop trusting them.

So, the trust runs both in our lives and our jobs as leaders and must be cultivated on and off the job.

Many other values should be manifested in the life one leads and the leadership one displays. The point is that when you ensure that the leadership traits you conduct on the job are the traits, you live by w you enhance the quality of your leadership and your life.


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