What It Means To Lead, Inspire and Move People
So recently one of our sons started a new basketball camp. It turned out to be less instructive and more scrimmage-based. Which was great. More court time meant more practice, a good work out and a chance to work together. It didn’t mean he was supposed to be bossing everyone around. Turns out Jacob was directing traffic as he brought the ball down, yelling for arms up and fast feet, even coaching from the bench. He was the guy you wanted to tell to ‘can it!’ If you have kids you know that every time something like this happens, you struggle for the right words a little. You want them to hustle, to be enthusiastic and passionate. To express themselves and rally those around them. But you don’t want them to be the outspoken critic or self-proclaimed boss. That’s when it became clear. The things he was pointing out were legit, constructive and everyone – including him – would benefit from the time they were clocking. But maybe Jacob would be more effective by working on the things he was telling everyone else to work on. Work the ball around the court, arms up (not over) on defense, look up as you dribble and make confident, powerful moves forward. If Jacob upped his game, everyone else would see what was happening and work to do the same. Bosses need not apply. (Is this what they call a ‘teachable moment’?) E.M. Kelly, the late author, Lieutenant and U.S. military pilot found the words we were searching for: “Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says ‘Go!’ A leader says ‘Let’s go!'” And taken in a different context, you don’t have to be a boss to act like a leader at work. In 10 Tips for Leadership When You’re Not the Bossfrom Inc.com, CEOs and others offer ideas on how to incorporate leadership into any role. And in fact, doing so is often the very thing that gets people promoted. The ideas aren’t groundbreaking (e.g. communicate clearly or help others) – they won’t shock you. But put together in practice, they send a powerful message to those around you that you are capable, reliable, innovative and invested in everyone’s success. Research and every day evidence shows that people are more likely to act, change and feel positive about it when they feel like they have some say in the decision. When people feel like a partner – that their opinion is heard and considered and they have an impact on change-they are more effective individually and as a team. And what about Jacob? We’re not going to lie. It was a tough sell. But he realized that the other guys responded more positively to watching change and the trial and error that paid off than they ever did listening to him harp on about it. His game improved. But the more remarkable thing was so did his attitude and his relationships with teammates. And Jacob’s parents? Tempted to celebrate a victory, realized he had lost three water bottles in five weeks. Left behind in the gym? In someone’s car? Accidentally thrown out after team snack? That’s a lesson for another day. Baby steps.