At my farm in Michigan stands a barn that, according to a barn expert I recently spoke with, is well over 100 years old. There are older structures than this, of course. But this barn has served its multiple purposes well over years, and stands ready today for its next stage of life.
Clearly, this barn was built to last.
When I think about that barn, I think about its longevity and about how I want to create a lasting impact and have the same long term value as a leader as my favorite barn.
I want to build to last.
So today, I am sharing five timeless principles that I believe leaders must live by in order to have the long term impact and value that we would hope for. After all, the work of leadership is important: without strong leaders, the world (and our communities and organizations) cannot become a better place.
As leaders, our barn is being built every day – so while my barn was built to last; you have the choice to continue to build every day. And you are making that choice, whether you are thinking about it or not.
Building to last is a worthy goal.
Humanity. We must always remember we are leading people – full of potential, passion and each possessing their own personality. Humans are messy – we screw up, change our minds and are sometimes unpredictable. As leaders, we must remember we are leading people, and so we must strive to better understand individuals, and also develop a broad understanding of human behavior. Leaders who last always remember that they are leading people, and so there will be more than one right answer, shades of gray and surprises, both positive and negative.
Learning. If you agree with the previous paragraph, you cannot deny that leadership is a complex endeavor. Doing this well is hard. Your sources for this type of learning are far more than a book or classroom – you must observe, reflect, ask, try, mess up and move on – and always be thinking about how you can lead more effectively. If we want to be a leader who lasts, you must be on a path of learning and discovery.
Love. This is a strong word, but leaders that last don’t shy away from strong ideas. We must love our team, our Customers, our work, our purpose and ourselves. You might do okay if you simply “like” one or more of these things or groups, but you won’t be a leader who lasts until you are willing to bring all your passion, and yes, love, to your work as a leader.
Influence. Too often, leaders think about taking control or taking charge. Those thoughts might work in a moment of crisis and they might be the way some have been led, leading them to believe that is the only way to do it. In general, this is a mistake and isn’t really even how the world really works. The fact is that you cannot control another human being. They make their own choices, and at some point forcing, pushing and controlling won’t get you the outcomes you want. Leaders who last recognize that they are in the persuading, inspiring and influencing business.
Meaning. Your team is a group of people who are investing their time and effort into something you are leading. If you want to engage them in higher ways, help them find meaning in their work. When you want to influence change, help people find a reason for the change. If you want to build your leadership to last, you must have a meaning or reason for doing it. As humans, when we have meaning or purpose, we will be more enthused, more persistent, more disciplined and far more likely to succeed. Leaders who last find meaning for themselves and help others find meaning in their work.
I have written about all of these principles before and will, without a doubt, do so again. It is my hope that when thought about in this way, I will prompt you to think about your lasting impact and your ongoing growth as a leader; and that you will renew your resolve for the long term and your application of these principles each day.