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Part 2 – The Way to Lead is Most Excellent

History’s about to be rewritten by two guys who can’t even spell in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Bill Preston and Ted Logan are two totally excellent dudes facing a most heinous history exam. With the help of Rufus an ultra-cool messenger in a time traveling phone booth, the triumphant two-some bag a bevy of historical heavy weights like the “Bodacious Philosopher So-crates, “One Very Excellent Barbarian” Genghis Khan, the “Short Dead Dude” Napoleon and “Noah’s Wife” Joan of Arc to stage the most excellent high school project ever.

The impetus in The Way to Lead is Most Excellent focused on four themes:

  1. Leaning in to Elegant Leadership with humility
  2. Elegant Leaders relish defining moments to act
  3. Having the courage to impact our world as an Elegant Leader, and 
  4. Leading at your absolute best is who an Elegant Leader is.

As we often say Elegant Leadership is the rhythm of ego, results and relationships. We turn our focus on relationships and the next three themes – assembling a team of great people, selfless leadership and loving your people . Who are you surrounding yourself with? Your success isn’t based upon your intellect, your title or your education. An Elegant Leader’s success is based upon their passion for excellence. Attitudes are contagious! One thing an Elegant Leader loves about the team he or she serves with is being around them and discussing the work, the industry, the marketplace and life in general – that stirs passion for what they do.

Bill: So-cratz – “The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing”.

Ted: That’s us, dude.

For thousands of years, people have been led to accomplish a vision that was far greater than even the leader could have ever imagined – Napoleon, Ghengis Khan, Socrates. Any great leader knows you cannot persevere without great people. Elegant Leaders build a team with people who share a common set of values and beliefs, understand they are valued, their opinions are welcomed and necessary, and the goal is the advancement of the organization and not the attention of any one individual.

Bill:  Be Excellent to Each Other.

You know you have the right team when it’s not just the work you love rather you love the people you are working with. You know you have the right team when problems do not belong to “me” rather they belong to “we.” You know you have the right team when the people you lead and serve love you and the organization too much to allow individual team members to make a ridiculous decision. You now have an Elegant Team!

An Elegant Team will refuse to allow personal preferences to dictate decisions and will embrace difficult conversations. It’s not black and white. The Elegant Leader’s challenge is to recognize the process of team learning for what it is and embrace it. In learning how to scuba dive, one of the greatest fears and most exhilarating times is your first solo dive as you leave the bright blue light and submerge towards the gray. An Elegant Leader is comfortable in the gray!

Do you have the right people around you? People who will stick with you no matter the circumstance?

What about your attitude would you not want to pass on to your team?

Do you want to be popular or successful? What are you willing to do this week to set the tone for the people you lead?

One sure way to fail a history exam or to fail as a leader in the organization is to think we’re smarter than the people we are leading, to not respect those we’re leading or to feel threatened by the people we’re leading. Recently, we were working with a client who had turned their business around from a 14-month loss of more than $1M, to a monthly profit in excess of $1M sustaining it for 9 months through a new CEO transition. When the new CEO claimed the victory as his own after being in the role for less than two months, things began to unravel for that CEO over the next six months and the end wasn’t pretty. When people understand they’re on the same team, an Elegant Team, working for the same goals, and are willing to speak truth respectfully, the best ideas can be presented and adopted.

Bill:  Bogus. Heinous. Most non-triumphant

When a leader does not have people around him or her who will share the truth, they are like the Emperor who had no clothes. An Elegant Leader keeps no record of wrongs. Things change every day and even the best plans executed flawlessly can lead to undesirable results if the situation changes along the way. When you find yourself getting agitated, stop and ask yourself, “who is this about anyway – really?” Many of our problems in life and leadership are a result of self-serving on our part. Selfishness leads us to seek what’s best for me and no one else. We lose sight of what’s honorable and right for those around us all in an effort to get ahead.  An Elegant Leader isn’t the smartest person in the room and isn’t charged with having to have all of the answers either. The belief that we have to have the solution for every problem arises from a lack of trust in those around us. Pride is like speed – it kills!

Can people be honest and open with anyone in the organization including me?

Do I remind people of their past failures or do I encourage them?

How do I react when people bring me information that is true and accurate? Or, do they hold back, because they know I will lose my mind and have a meltdown?

How am I showing up as a Leader? Do I cut people off mid sentence as soon as I discover their idea is not viable, or am I willing to hear them out?

Stop living in the past and worrying about the future. If we are obsessed with the past then we’re not advancing toward the future. Elegant Leaders lead in the moment – the present and are excited for the future they and their team can affect. The reason some young leaders can’t thrive in their current roles is because a more mature leader perceives them as a threat. As a legacy leader, you owe it to yourself to model the behaviors you expect from your younger managers in order to earn their right to advance as a knowledgeable and respectable leader.

Abraham Lincoln:  Fourscore and…[looks at his pocket watch] seven minutes ago… we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill… and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it’s true today.

Every person and every leader has unique characteristics and gifts that make them the person and the leader they are. Leaders cannot effectively lead people we do not love. As an Elegant Leader, you have been placed in a role of authority and how you treat people embodies your effectiveness as a leader.

Am I giving people room to make mistakes as I want them to give me? 

How much do my people ask to be around me outside of work?

Do I have my staff’s back? Have I earned theirs?

How willing am I to teach my people through their mistakes?

It’s very discouraging to work for someone who demands total loyalty yet extends it conditionally. Do I believe my staff to make day-to-day decisions without my input? If you have high turnover and the answers to the above questions have you a bit uncomfortable, then maybe it isn’t your people failing. An Elegant Leader is patient, kind, protects, trusts, hopes, never fails, encourages and yes an Elegant Leader loves. No one will care let alone remember us for what we accomplish. What will be remembered is how we made them feel and what we helped them to achieve. One final thought, be interested in who your staff is becoming, encourage them and build them up to their potential.

Leadership by love is the most excellent way, dude! For more excellent reads on Elegant Leadership:

Your #1 Goal as a LeaderYou are defined by your actions, not your words

7 Things for 7 DaysSetting the Tone for How Did I Show Up Today

Who Needs Your EncouragementIn the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.

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