I’ve always been enamored by people who could cook using cast iron pots and pans. For years they seemed to have been a mystery to me.
Then, starting in January, I began cooking my breakfast every morning using a cast iron pan. I learned how to prep the pan, how to cook in the pan, and how to clean the pan, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using a non cast iron pan again.
The more I have used my new favorite cooking pan, the mystique and intrigue of cast iron has slowly faded away. What used to be a mystery has become a staple in my routine.
What fascinates me is the mystery was greater when I hadn’t tried cooking with cast iron. It was something “they” always used, not something I used. I would read about how to use it, but the best growth came through experience.
I’m probably moving in an obvious direction at this point, right?
Leadership is the same way. We can read about leadership. We can watch and admire what “they” do. But until we roll up our sleeves and start exercising leadership, theory is only theory.
Leadership is messy. Plans don’t go the way we want. We make mistakes. We pull the trigger too fast on some things, and not fast enough on other things. We look back and see what we could have done differently.
But at the end of the day, leadership only grows when it’s being used.
My success as a leader is not based on my most recent endeavor. My success as a leader is based on my ability and willingness to move forward in spite of or inspired by my most recent endeavor.
What decision are you holding off on because you’re afraid to move forward today? What’s your cast iron pan? What is the thing that intimidates you? Step up to the metaphorical stove and start cooking! You’ll be glad you did.
Interested in getting more posts like this in your inbox the day they post? Subscribe to 3QL today!
Leadership influence is a tricky concept. The reality about leadership influence is we all have influence, but so many people that I observe fail to realize the impact their influence is making.
Influence, unfortunately, does not always mean a positive outcome. Often times I see the result of influence being more negative than positive.
That’s why my heart beats for teenagers. They are exploring the realm of their influence, often missing the real impact they have.
Sometimes, teenagers get so tuned in to their own interests and preferences that they neglect the impact their decisions and actions are having on those around them.
Sometimes, adults get so tuned in to their own interests and preferences that they neglect the impact their decisions and actions are having on those around them.
That’s why I love the leadership conversation. If I can take a student (or adult) and help them begin to discover the potential and influence they have, then we can start to move forward together.
That’s also why I love the three questions. Teaching the three questions to students is a way for them to start to realize the impact they can and do have on a room. More than that, it helps them see the results of that impact. And that impact doesn’t come from being up front or in charge. It comes from serving and adding value.
I want any room I enter to be better because I’m there. Now, that may not mean that I’m the center of attention, and a lot of times that’s not the case at all. But wherever I am, I want to make an impact on those around me in some way. And I love helping others do the same thing.
What about you? Where are you in the process? What’s your passion for developing leaders? What are you doing to develop student leaders around you? What are you doing to develop your own leadership? What step do you need to take today to move forward either developing student leaders or developing your own leadership?
Here are two things I would suggest to help you move forward here:
Think of your favorite vehicle. Not your dream vehicle, but out of the vehicles you’ve owned, what has been your favorite?
For me, it was a GMC Yukon. It had after market rims, but that wasn’t what I loved about it. You want to know what I loved? Heated seats and an automatic start. It was my first vehicle with both.
I loved driving that Yukon. My youngest was still an infant, and that car was a dream, except for the mileage.
Every vehicle since then has been compared to that Yukon, and probably from here on out (until I find a new favorite), every new-ish vehicle I get will get compared to it.
The same is true in leadership. We compare what we see to what we have seen.
The comparison of the present to the past is not negative, unless we let it become that way. The past, when remembered fondly, grows more legendary with every positive remembrance.
When my wife and I first got married we were broke college students who could barely afford to eat out, and only if that eating out was 49 cent tacos at Taco Bell. We were broke. But guess what, I look back on that time with great love. But I would never go back to it.
Our memory will naturally elevate the glory of things we remember fondly. The opposite is true, as well. Negative memories, when left unresolved, will grow more negative, as well.
Back to leadership. In our personal lives, we compare what we see to what we have seen. This could be positive or negative, depending on our approach.
As with most things, I advocate for awareness. When I realize I have a bias toward the present based on the past, then I am more likely to take what I see for what it is, not for what it has been previously.
Put another way, just because something went poorly in the past, doesn’t mean the ending is the same this time, although sometimes it is.
Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean it’s the best way of accomplishing something, although sometimes it is.
Just because someone betrayed you in the past, doesn’t mean a new someone will treat you the same way, although sometimes it does.
Allow the past to inform the present, not dictate it. Learn from your experiences, but don’t allow them to handcuff you.
And understand the people you lead are searching for the same balance along the way. Help them navigate the present and the past, and watch your leadership influence grow.
Have you ever noticed you never realize how messy your house is until someone is coming to visit?
Or, how after you drive by the same thing day after day, you start to ignore it? Except for stop lights. We always pay attention to stop lights.
What about the decorations around you? Unless you’ve done a recent remodel, I doubt you’d be able to tell me what order pictures and paintings are in on your wall.
Time and repetition play a funny trick on us. Over time, the more we see something, the more likely we become blind to it.
This is true in leadership as well. When we lead in similar situations for a continued amount of time, we have to fight becoming blind to key things around us–strained relationships, organizational complexity, insider language, etc.
This may be simple, but for me it’s messes. I get accustomed to a mess until I have a special guest, then I realize there are books and papers all over the place. Then, I find myself racing to make things look presentable.
For you, it’s likely something else. Maybe you’re forgetting about a relationship that’s been strained for too long. Or you are using insider language that makes new people feel left out and unwelcome.
In leadership, maybe you’re focusing too much on recruiting new people and neglecting the care of the ones you have already. Think of someone who has been serving with you for a while who would greatly benefit from some personal attention and go the extra mile with them.
What do you have in your life that has become “old hat” so much that you do not even recognize it anymore? What steps do you need to take to make the appropriate adjustments and give the necessary attention? Take those steps today!
I know how this day ends. By my best estimation, this day ends with me laying my head on a pillow and closing my eyes.
What I do not know, is how the day unfolds. Every moment today will present a new challenge, a new adventure. The challenges and adventures of the day may be something I have encountered previously, or they may be something for which I was not prepared.
Either way, the challenges and adventures presenting themselves to me today have to be met, and I will meet them with enthusiasm.
But, at the end of the day, regardless of the challenges and adventures I encounter, I know how this day ends. And when this day ends, I will be grateful for the time I had and the lessons I learned along the way.
I hope when your day ends today, you will be able to look back and know you made the most of what came your way.
Please fill in the form and submit to subscribe and make it easier to learn to expand your leadership influence!