I was asked a question last week that I had never been asked, and I didn’t really know the answer too. I often say that I’ve always gravitated to a leadership position. But, I was asked why. I never really thought about it until he asked me and now, I can’t get it off my mind. I am going to use today’s blog to help answer this question for me, and to share with you why I think leadership is important.
Why is Leadership Important to Me?
First and foremost, management and leadership are NOT the same thing. Management is about getting tasks done, leadership is about developing people. To equate this to sports, a coach manages a game plan (management), but coaches the players perform better (leadership).
When I was asked why I gravitated to leadership, my initial response was that it was something natural in me. But when I reflected on the question, I realized it was something deeper. I concluded that leadership is important to be because of the impact that good leaders have had on my life. And, probably because of the impact that bad leaders had on my life, as well. Here are some examples of how leadership had an impact on my life, and how I’ve taken that lesson with me many years later.
When I was in middle school, I fell in love with playing basketball. I was taller than average, so I could use my size to compensate for my lack of speed. The trouble was, I still wasn’t great. I was what they called the sixth man, which meant I didn’t start but got some playing time. I loved the game and would practice every chance I got (even in the snow). Between 8th and 9th grades I hit a growth spurt, and shot up over 6’. I was hoping for another growths spurt, but that didn’t happen.
When I got into high school though I wanted to play college basketball. The high school varsity coach, for whatever reason, decided to work with me. He’d drive me to play in summer leagues and find camps that I could go to. I was still in 9th grade, and by no means was I a superstar. He invested his time, and I became a better ball player.
However, he doesn’t make the list because he taught basketball. He also became a mentor for my life. He’d offer advice and guidance on just navigating high school. He was able to help me make better decisions and become a better ball player, student, and person. When I coach my kids, I try to model myself after him.
In my book, I talk about my Lead Petty Officer (LPO) at my first duty station in the Navy. He was probably the best LPO I had while in the Navy. Not that the others weren’t good, but he brought something different to the position. As I am writing this, I think this experience taught me the difference between leadership and management.
Under his lead, I learned the mechanics of running a maintenance shop (management) as well as how to lead people. In my experience (and faded memories) he enabled me to grow and learn my job to a level higher than most of my peers. He encouraged me to take on the most challenging problems, and gave me the resources I needed to be successful. He encouraged all of us to take advantage of the various learning opportunities available so we could advance our careers. As I became more proficient in my job, he assigned junior technicians to work with me to help them become better.
My LPO made the list because of his direction, I became a better technician and better sailor. He also introduced me to what leadership really means. In my careers since then, I’ve tried to encourage people to grow, give them tools to be successful, and develop future leaders.
Last and certainly not least I my father. Now his leadership cannot be completely summed up in a few short paragraphs, but the biggest lesson I learned from him was faith. My father always had faith in me, or at least let me believe he did. I’ll share a couple quick examples of how my father influenced me.
He coached little league baseball. He worked shift work at the time and it was difficult, but he made every effort he could to be at all my practices and games. This was such a positive influence on my, that I go out of my way to coach for my kids. He taught me the importance of being there as a father (even when you’re not wanted.)
In high school, I didn’t always stay on the straight and narrow. After an injury ended my basketball career, I didn’t always find constructive ways to spend my time. My father never gave up on me. He would challenge with questions like “what are you going to do now?”
He always knew that I had to make my own decisions. Eventually I answered his question and enlisted in the Navy. He was happy about that. In fact, the night before heading off to boot camp, I couldn’t sleep. He stayed up all night talking to me. Probably making sure I wasn’t going to sneak out the back door. From this I learned to have faith, and persistence. His persistence in challenging me to become better made me a better person, and perhaps better father.
This Week’s Challenge
This week I am going to challenge you with the same challenge laid before me. Why are you a leader? Or, why are you inspired to be a leader?
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