Leading in Living Color


bewitchedI’m of the age where I remember television shows moving from black and white to color – Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies and Andy Griffith immediately come to mind.  When these transitions happened they were widely advertised, but we didn’t have color television yet (the fall of 1972 for us).  Nonetheless, I remember the transition, and I remember seeing those shows in color for the first time.

Not just color, “living color.”

The color, of course changed the experience of watching the show tremendously.

I know that not everyone reading this remembers the transition, yet I’m sure you have watched a black and white movie or an older television show, so you get my point.

Too many leaders are leading in black and white.

What do I mean?

Too many leaders think they can leave their real selves at home, leading from a place of policy, procedure and a pursuit of perceived perfection. I (and those they lead) would use different words.

Boring.  Bland.  Black-and-White.

Uninspiring, underwhelming and unsuccessful.

Think about the kind of leaders you want to be led by – aren’t they real, authentic, and genuine?  Aren’t they interesting, perhaps even a bit quirky, and colorful?

What then, does it mean to lead in living color?

  • Share who you are.  Make sure your team knows something about you.  Do they know anything about your back story?  Do you share anything about your family, hobbies and interests?  Do they know the foods you like (and don’t)?  It isn’t these things specifically, as much as it is the idea in general.  People want to be led by people they know – does your team know (the real) you?
  • Make mistakes (and share them).  Most everyone agrees that we can learn from our mistakes, yet often leaders seem to want everyone to do everything perfectly – after all we need quality results, not mistakes!?! Of course there are mistakes that break policy, laws or put people in danger – these aren’t the mistakes I’m talking about.  If you want your team learning from honest mistakes, you must be making some, and letting the team know what they are.  If they think you aren’t making any, they certainly aren’t going to share theirs with you.  When was the last time you shared a mistake you made?
  • Show your passions. Human beings are emotional beings, and want to be led by people who care.  Any passions matter whether it is antique tractors (one of mine), singing (one of a couple of my team members), genealogy, cooking, yoga or whatever, it matters.  Even more importantly, show your passion related to the work and why it is important to you.  When was the last time you shared your passion and purpose for your work with others?
  • Admit your weaknesses.  You know you have them, and so does your team.  It is much better to be open about them, especially when you look to the rest of your team to fill in those gaps in your skill set.  They get recognized and valued, you aren’t exhausted trying to hide your flaws, and you get better results.  When was the last time you shared a weakness and asked your team for help?
  • Be real.  Perhaps this is a summary of the others, yet it needs to be said directly.  They want someone to look up to, but they don’t want perfect.  They want people who learn from mistakes (which implies that they make them).  They want people who care about things, purposes and people.  And they want you to be humble enough to admit your shortcomings, yet confident enough to know (and lead from) your strengths.

The list could be longer, yet I hope you get the point.  People don’t want to be led by robots, but by people.  And people are real and human, fun and frivolous, genuine and goofy, full of good intentions and mistakes.

If you want to be a more effective leader, be real and relatable.  Stop trying to be something that you aren’t and start leading in living color.

photo credit: twitchery via photopin cc

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