Stone Cold Steve

“Leadership is a privilege”

There was a leader in one of my workshops a few months back that we affectionately called “Stone Cold Steve.”  At first blush, Steve was a direct, self-coined “shut up and work,” driven leader.  He got the nickname from a moment in class when he said, “that’s their (employee’s) job – just tell them to do it.”  From that moment forward, we joked that leading should be that easy.  But then, we would not have thousands of books and blogs on leadership if it were that simple.

Steve shared an insight in class that stuck with me.  We learn from each other’s stories.  He inspired me to begin sharing leadership stories, and I am proud to help tell Stone Cold Steve’s story.

Over the course, Steve began identifying opportunities to do things differently.  He started with himself, setting small goals.  Time management was a challenge for him.  His days were filled seeing clients, helping his team solve problems, and he rarely had time to do administrative tasks.  In our group coaching discussions, other leaders shared similar challenges.  The group recognized that we tend to procrastinate the tasks we either do not have the skill to do, or the will to do.  For Stone Cold Steve, the task he procrastinated most was typing and sharing his team meeting notes.  It wasn’t that it wasn’t important.  His team valued communication, and documenting the discussion was important to hold his team accountable.

Taking a deeper look in the mirror, Stone Cold Steve realized that while he had the skills to share the team meeting notes, he lacked the will.  It was a detail-oriented independent task that bored him.  It was a not an ideal task for him to do – there were plenty of people on his team that could do it better and faster than him.  So, why was he doing it?  Or, in his case, procrastinating doing it?  The answer:  fear.  He did not want his team to know he was overwhelmed.  He did not want them to think that he could not handle it all.  He didn’t want to let them see him sweat.

Taking a different perspective on this, in our next group coaching discussion, Stone Cold Steve shared his aha moment.  In sharing his story, he realized he would be far better off letting go of this task and empowering the team to do it.  But, he had to let go of his fear first.  He adopted a new mantra –“it’s okay to let my team know when I feel overwhelmed” – and reminded himself each time he felt conflicted or did not have enough time to get the job done.  He ended up successfully delegating the task to a team member, and the notes are shared effectively as a result.  It was okay to ask for help.  In fact, most team members think more of leaders that reach out a hand for help.  It shows them that they are human too.  And, who doesn’t like to help someone in need.  It makes us feel important and valued.

Stone Cold Steve concluded his leadership journey with me, sharing one last piece of wisdom – “leadership is a privilege.”  It’s something we earn the right to do.  We could choose the label of the boss, the manager, or even call ourselves a leader, but real leaders embrace it like a badge of honor.  They feel lucky to lead a group of people, affecting their team’s job satisfaction and engagement.  We spend a lot of time at work, and it has a huge impact on our overall happiness in life.  How lucky are we as leaders to have the privilege to help people be happier at work, and in their lives?  Ask yourself that, and soak in how you feel.  Then, remember Stone Cold Steve’s transformation from “shut up and work” to “leadership as a privilege.”  Find your mantra, and let it fuel you forward.

Leaders that believe leadership is a privilege have better business results.

What have you learned from Stone Cold Steve?