Posts Tagged ‘actions speak louder than words’

The majority of articles and blogs about leadership talk about a single aspect – as if it exists and operates in a vacuum – of leadership. It is the public face of leadership: businesses, religious organizations, political organizations, social organizations, schools, and non-profit organizations.

Except for this blog and these books, I have not found any other resource on leadership that discusses it in terms of the whole of spectrum of our lives: it’s who we are, what we are, how we are everywhere in life.

That’s what makes this blog and these books unique. Most people don’t think a blog or books about leadership apply to them: to their lives, to who they are, what they are, and how they are.

They are wrong.

Because they’ve bought into the mainstream idea of what leadership is in a public sense, and since they’re not in one of those positions, then any discussion of leadership doesn’t apply to them.

(And most of the mainstream ideas of leadership are actually “management” instead of “leadership,” which fails time and time again because there are very few people strong enough and courageous enough to get outside of the MBA-fueled tiny, uninnovative, rigid, and constrictive box that confines them to failure).

The reality is that quintessential leadership applies to everyone who lives and breathes. No matter where we are in life or what we are doing, we all lead at least one team, if not several.

Everything we do, we say, and we are is setting an example for the others in our lives, and that, my friends, is leadership. How we do that determines whether we are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

It is that simple. And that hard.

A close friend and fellow blogger, remarking on “The Quintessential Leader Perspective: Expressing and Showing Genuine and Authentic Appreciation,” said “A tall order! It’s difficult to be thankful towards those who are difficult, yet it is the only right answer.”

Becoming a quintessential leader is the road not taken. It is the hard way, the difficult way, the way that demands that we look at leadership in terms of every and all aspects of our lives, not just a single part.

It requires rigorous self-examination without excuses, justifications, or blaming others. It requires constant, continuous, and momentous change from the inside out.

It requires a complete metamorphosis and transformation at the very foundational core of who and what we are, our intents, our attitudes, our motives, how we think, what we think, how we speak, what we speak, how we act, what we choose to do or not do, and how we set that example for others.

It requires fearless commitment and unwavering fortitude.

There is no room for the pretenders, the wannabes, the half-hearted, the sometimes-maybe, for the lackadaisical, and for the here-but-not-there.

We are either all in or all out.

One of the tests – of veracity, of genuineness, of authenticity – for whether we are quintessential leaders or not is how we consistently handle the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.

All of life.

From our most private internal lives to our most public external lives.

It is important to remember that this is the ideal, the goal that quintessential leaders strive for and to. None of us will execute this perfectly all the time, but there must be aggregate and continual evidence in our lives that this is who and what we are committed to – no matter how many failures, setbacks, and falls along the way we make and encounter -becoming.

Quintessential leadership is hardest to see when life is good. Humanity, in general, tends to be at its best when everything’s going well and life presents no challenges, no upsets, no hairpin turns in the road. We all, at least on the surface, can seem to be charitable, thoughtful, caring, concerned, kind, generous, gentle, merciful, and magnanimous.

It is in the good times, though, that the inner character of quintessential leaders separates them from everyone else.

One component of that character is humility.

Quintessential leaders never elevate themselves above others, nor do they constantly talk about how much they’ve accomplished, achieved, acquired (and, by extension, how much wealth they have by enumerating the amount of money those acquisitions cost), and how awesome and great they are.

Instead, quintessential leaders continue to live life modestly and quietly. They realize that the good times are part of the cycle of life and will not last.

Quintessential leaders also understand that the good times are a gift they did not earn, do not deserve, and are not entitled to, so in an attitude of service and thankfulness for them, quintessential leaders use the blessings of good times to help and assist others, often anonymously, and always silently and without any fanfare.

Another three-pronged component of the quintessential leader’s character that you’ll see in the good times in life is understanding and sensitivity combined with empathy.

Quintessential leaders are always cognizant that although they may be experiencing good times in their lives at that moment, many of the people with whom their lives intersect – and for whom they are examples and, therefore, leaders – may not be.

Quintessential leaders are excellent and accurate observers of life by nature. Because they listen more than they speak and watch more than they engage, they miss virtually nothing about what people say (or don’t say), do (or don’t do), and are (or are not), although they seldom, if ever, say anything about it.

They learn to understand and to relate to others in a tangible and meaningful way that includes the rare quality of being able to empathize by putting themselves into the situations that others are experiencing.

As a result, quintessential leaders are acutely sensitive to the circumstances of other people and how their behavior, words, and actions could affect them, not because they are inherently wrong, but because of what other people may be experiencing (for example, if someone is going through a relationship loss, quintessential leaders would not be talking on and on in bubbly, bouyant, and bouncy conversations with this person about all the great things in their wonderful and fantastic relationships).

Anything other than this kind of understanding, empathy, and sensitivity – deep awareness of others and genuinely and authentically relating to them – would be out of character for quintessential leaders during the good times of life.

Why?

Because quintessential leaders always have the big picture in the front of their minds. Good times come and go. Anything that’s happened to someone else could or may happen to us. How would we want to be treated when we are walking in those shoes?

It is always an others-perspective, not a me-perspective, that defines who, what, and how quintessential leaders are. In the good times in life. And in the bad and ugly times.

It is in the bad times and the ugly times in life that quintessential leaders become more apparent, because the bad times and the ugly times in life are the times that try our souls, our hearts, our minds and our character to their outermost limits.

The bad times and the ugly times present ample opportunities to be unquintessential leaders, to set and be bad examples for the people with whom our lives intersect.

The bad times and the ugly times in life can give rise to unfair criticisms, harsh and inaccurate evaluations and condemnations, rejections, resentments, mockery, stinging and hurtful putdowns (usually guised as “jokes” or followed by smiley faces), spitefulness, jealousies, pettiness, and defensiveness – all of which are not intrinsic character traits of quintessential leaders.

The reality is that we all have to deal with these kinds of attitudes, motives, words, and actions during the bad times and the ugly times in life, whether we are quintessential leaders or not.

They are hard-wired into our human nature and it is in the worst of times that we either fight and subdue them or we embrace and use them.

Unquintessential leaders embrace and use them.

Quintessential leaders fight and subdue them.

In other words, quintessential leaders exercise self-control (and, at times, this is the most exhausting work in the world, because it literally takes every ounce of energy and effort we have) and choose what is right instead of what seems easy, justified, and, at least temporarily, very self-satisfying.

These are very often epic behind-the-scenes battles that end in victories or capitulations, character developments or character destructions, good or bad choices, and wise or unwise decisions.

The outcome of what goes on in the private and inner workings of our hearts, souls, and minds is only apparent in what we do (or don’t do) and say (or don’t say) out in the open.

And it’s in the outward manifestation, in bad times and ugly times, that we can truly distinguish between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders.

Again, in bad times and ugly times in life, we all experience failure in being quintessential leaders.

There is not a human being who has ever lived, who lives, or who will live – except for the Son of God – who has, does, or will get it right 100% of the time. It’s impossible in our current configuration.

However, the hallmark difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is that quintessential leaders are actively living – consciously and deliberately thinking, practicing, being in every part of their lives all the time – with the goal always directly in front of them.

It is a way of life – an integrated part of who, what, and how they consciencely (that’s not a misspelling – because the state of our consciences is directly related to quintessential leadership) and consciously are and are becoming.

In other words, quintessential leaders are well aware when they fail. Nobody else needs to point their failures out to them. The consciences of quintessential leaders are so finely-tuned and sensitive to what they should and want to be – the ideal – that their consciences are immediately stricken when they fall short in any way.

Quintessential leaders are devastated when they fail because they know that not only have they missed the mark of quintessential leadership, but they have failed the people whose lives intersect with theirs by setting a wrong and bad example.

Quintessential leaders, again, stand out in this area from unquintessential leaders.

Quintessential leaders first admit they failed, to themselves and to their teams. They then apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Quintessential leaders will next immediately undertake an exhaustive post-mortem on what happened and why it happened. In the process, quintessential leaders identify tangible and definitive steps to correct the failure, from the inside out, and actively start taking those steps.

Quintessential leaders often do one more thing: they use their failures and the process of identifying the causes and the corrective actions as teachable moments for their teams.

Unquintessential leaders can’t do this because they don’t even recognize a failure (and if someone pointed it out to them, they’d deny it and get defensive and start attacking the poor, unfortunate soul who dared to say anything), so their bad examples are all their teams get.

And their teams perpetuate those bad examples to their teams, and so it goes until we find ourselves in the world in its present tense surrounded by an overwhelming majority of unquintessential leaders.

But we are not them. Or are we?

 

 

 

 

Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free is a company that will start out offering cupcake mixes that are both incredibly awesome and gluten-free, as well as easy to mix and bake. However,  Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free is currently in the process of trying to fund and launch the company. If the funding campaign, which ends in July, does not meet its goal, then the company will not be able to launch its gluten-free products.

The owner of Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free is a close friend of mine. As quintessential leaders, part of our responsibilities are to pay everything forward. This post is paying forward, because I know the owner is a quintessential leader and I know  that this business, with funding, is going to be successful.

But unless Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free gets the funding it needs by the first week of July, this company will not exist. And this company needs to exist.

As quintessential leaders, I’ve urged all of us to think outside of the boxes life tends to put around us. Here’s another exhortation to think outside of our personal boxes of life and consider the bigger box of humanity and the confining boxes that being gluten-intolerant puts many of those people and their families in.

As quintessential leaders, we are, by definition, big-picture in how we see, how we relate, and how we respond. This call to action for Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free enables each of us to show that we are quintessential leaders, not only in word, but in deed.

Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free has added s brand new perk added for a $15 dollar donation to this very worthy cause. You don’t have to donate $15 dollars, however, to make Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free a reality for all the gluten-intolerant people out there.

Forget about perks. Think about your family. No doubt there is someone among them who is gluten-intolerant.

Think about your friends. Do you know anyone who is gluten-intolerant? Would you be willing to help them?

Think about yourself. What if tomorrow you were diagnosed with gluten intolerance? Think about how radically your life would change, because most of the bread and pasta products we eat have gluten in them.

What if there were no companies that produced gluten-free products that were not only healthy but also tasty? What if all you had were the mega-produced gluten-free products that are, if not inedible, at least the last resort if you have no other choices?

Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free offers a wonderful alternative to all the bland, tasteless, and, yes, sometimes inedible products offered commercially now for people who are gluten-intolerant.

Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free is an incredibly personal venture based on a child’s need for gluten-free food. With love, care, and investment behind all the products that Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten-Free will offer, how could any of us not put ourselves in the shoes of parents and children who need these products and had no option but what we came up with ourselves to ensure our children had gluten-free alternatives?

For yourself. For your children. For your grandchildren. For your great-grandchildren. others. For others’ children. For others’ grandchildren. For others’ great-grandchildren.

Consider a small donation to help anyone that comes to mind when you think of those possibilities.

Until we’re in the middle of something health-wise, we don’t often have empathy and understanding for what many others who share our battles go through.

I learned this a few years ago when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and Graves’ Eye Disease.

All my life, I’ve been through hell and back with these. And, for the rest of my life, I will continue to go through hell and back with them. That is something I’ve had to accept and adjust to. I’ve tried to change myself so that hell is not so bad for me and everybody else. That is a battle I will fight until the day I take my welcomed last breath.

Although both are autoimmune diseases and thyroid diseases are genetic in my maternal biological family, my struggle with these is not systemic, but instead neurological (which means the standard treatments for them don’t work). I’ve got an overactive hypothalamus and pituitary gland that overload my brain and my thyroid (apparently the weakest system in my body).

There’s no fix for me. And I’m okay with that and work to try to find other ways to fix what, realistically, can’t be fixed in this physical life.

So when I see things that can be fixed, like gluten intolerance, I push for those fixes. Probably harder than most people would. But I know what it’s like to have something that’s not fixable.

Gluten-intolerance is fixable. Or at least manageable. Pookey’s Sweet Life – Gluten Free is one of the fixes. Let’s join together to help in the effort to fix and address something that is fixable in this lif

One of the true voids in every strata of life now, from personal to corporate to national to global, is that of authenticity from the inside out. We live in a society that has been jaded and marred by the realizations and revelations that the people they’ve admired, looked up to, followed, and thought they knew were frauds.

That has destroyed trust and undermined respect for any kind of authority – not abusive, misused and self-seeking tyranny, which is often the only manifestation we currently see in almost every governing structure, from personal to corporate to national to global – necessary to ensure order and progress. And that has led to the deepening chaos and retrograde that we see unfolding today.

I read an excerpt from “Sweetness,” Jeff Pearlman’s new book about Walter Payton, the Chicago Bears’ legendary running back from the mid-1970’s to the late 1980’s, in Sports Illustrated yesterday. And although the excerpt is being criticized for its portrayal of an inner man who was quite different from the outer man, it underscored this point about how important that our inside (who we are) matches our outside (what we do and say), because if those are not in sync, eventually the cracks will appear and we will be unmasked as frauds, pretenders, and wannebes. And no matter how much good we may have effected as a result of our superficial external coating, it will all be scrutinized, dismantled, dismissed, and abandoned, with nothing but the ugly truth of who we really were left as our legacies. 

Authenticity starts early in life. Its foundation is a moral integrity that is absolute – right or wrong, no matter what – instead of relative – right or wrong depends on the situation – and that we do not allow to be compromised nor compromise with. This is the foundation our parents have an important part in laying and we have an important part in building. We choose early on whether to build it or try to get around it by compromising it.

I don’t claim to know all the factors that go into which way we choose. I know that personality and temperament play a part. I know that experience plays a part. I know that what’s most important to us plays a part. But early on, we choose to try to stand on our principles – and suffer the consequences each time we don’t, and the negativity of that makes it less and less appealing – or compromise them.

Compromise is where the inner and outer person begin to part ways and become two separate entities instead of a single whole. The road to living a compromised life starts with seemingly little – although, in fact, they are never little – things. Cheating at a game or on a test. Lying to parents or teachers or ourselves. Stealing something from someone else.

Although getting caught or not getting caught by someone else can certainly encourage us or deter us from pursuing the road to a compromised life – it seemed to me as a kid that I seldom got away with anything without getting caught, and for that I’m now thankful – it seems to me that the strongest determinant is one of conscience. Conscience is what tells us that even if we didn’t get caught it was in conflict with our moral integrity and that dissonance was intolerable so we told on ourselves, made the situation right, and determined not to do that again, and if we did, we repeated the steps of getting rid of the internal conflict by admission, correction, and determination.

If our inner person (conscience) is not authentic, then these wrong acts, because no one else caught them, will not bother us and demand that we admit them and correct them. Instead, exactly because no one else caught them and there were seemingly no consequences – except to our character, which often goes undetected for many years because we become extremely adept at hiding the defects  – they embolden us to make these compromises habitual until they become who we are on the inside. We become liars.

And because we live in a society that mirrors this same behavior, giving lip service to a watered-down and surface version of law and order, but being utterly corrupt and okay with that corruption underneath, we become liars among liars, until there is virtually no truth, no authenticity, no honesty in any of our systems and the people who lead those systems.

I could write a book alone on the number of people I’ve worked with who were in leadership positions who lacked authenticity. I can hold up one finger on one hand for one man who was authentic inside and outside. He stands all by himself as someone I can say I truly respected and truly trusted and who was the best leader I ever worked with.

So to be a quintessential leader, you must be authentic. Who you are must match what you say and do. Your life, if opened up and dissected for all the world, must match the words you’ve spoken and the actions you have both taken and modeled, in every aspect of life. Anything less means moral compromise and moral compromise means failure.