How To Build A Culture of Leadership
The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.
Robert K. Greenleaf
I was 19 years old, and full of P & V and in basic training for the Canadian military in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. One day we were on our 7-mile walk/run in full gear, out, it seemed, in the middle of nowhere. The corporal leading us or should I say running ahead of us, was running at a pretty good pace that was leaving a few people behind. So, being pretty cocky, and in good shape, I decided to challenge him, so I ran up to him and passed him… you should have seen the look in his eyes as I ran past…total surprise. He caught up to me and passed me, and from there the race was on! For a couple of miles, we both traded the lead many times. Not a word was spoken except words of determination and drive.
When we arrived back at camp, there was no one behind us. We turned around and ran back to the troop who was just cresting the last hill before camp. I joined back in the troop, expecting to be cheered on for taking on the Corporal, only to find that the troop was quite upset with me. Upset because my responsibility, when we started the walk/run exercise, was to set the pace for the whole troop and in my blind zeal to challenge the Corporal, I forgot about everything else except winning. I forgot about the abilities of the others, and only thought of being first.
Today, over thirty years later, I still remember that lesson: When you are working in or leading a group, real success happens when everyone finishes together… and cheering each other on... not just the one who is in front. Yes it is important to do your personal best, and be the best that you can be, just keep in mind that success and a sense of leadership is much sweeter when you help someone else to succeed along with you. This done, that person can go on to become an effective leader as well, with your coaching acting as an example.
One thing is certain though, for any organization to be successful in the current business culture of “get more done quicker, better and with less”, everyone has to be thinking leadership. In the example above, if I had of had someone else in a leadership position leading us who was not out to make himself look good, but wanted to instil confidence in us and make us look good, then I definitely would have done something completely different. Leadership isn’t an “It’s all about me” game, it’s a “how can I grow the people to higher levels of competence” game.
A front line person demonstrates leadership by serving her employees in a professional and proficient manner. She assists in the decision making process, she offers options and suggestions for them to consider , she asks questions to get a clear picture o