Feeling Used?

One of the reasons I am so passionate about leadership is because I have experienced and reflected on the great leaders I have had and leaders that are, well, less than great. What makes someone a great leader? Can you think of someone that would put in the category of a great leader? What types of things did they do that would cause you to place them into that category? Let’s get plugged into leadership and find out.

March Madness is upon us. There is no shortage of fantastic players that will take the floor over the next few weeks in the NCAA tournament both male and female. Imagine, for a second, that you are one of those players. You have spent hours in the gym practicing your dribbling, shooting, and skills that you need to be the excellent player that got you on the team in the first place. Your training coupled with your passion for the game and your drive to win landed you on a great team with other players that have the same passion and drive as you. What will make the difference between the team that makes it to the top and the teams that go home earlier? It is leadership. Not just the head coach, although they are the top leader. Each coach, player, trainer, manager, and others can be an influencer on your journey to the winner’s circle.

The team with the best and most effective leaders will make it to that circle. Why? Leaders care about and add value to those around them. But what does that mean? This is a question that I asked myself often. To answer the question about caring and adding value, we have to start with another question, what do you really want? I didn’t ask myself this question enough, and because I wasn’t asking myself this question I did not have a real answer.

Let’s go back to you being on the basketball team for a minute. If what you really want, your goal, is to be standing on top of the podium and waving the trophy over your head, you will make the decision to get up early and shoot free throws. Will it be a sacrifice? Of course, but you are willing to do it because you know it will increase the chances of you reaching your goal. When your coach asks you to run suicide drills and casts the vision of how those drills will help you have the physical endurance needed in the last minutes of the game, you run those things like your goals depend on it, mainly, because they do! Are the drills hard? Of course, they are. At the moment you may ask yourself how much do you want to wave that trophy over your head. Your answer will determine your attitude towards the suicide drill. Your coach/leader is helping your reach your goal by giving you a hard, not so fun, and exhausting set of things to do, but because he has connected them to your goal, you gladly do them.

When your coach recruited you on the team, he might have cast a vision of winning. You latched onto that goal perhaps because it was something that you thought about often as well. The coach and yourself shared a common goal, and you trusted him to give you the things to do that would help you get there. How would you feel if later you found out that the coach didn’t care about winning at all? What if it was clear that he just wanted to collect his paycheck travel to all the cities you played in? I would start to not love those suicide drills, waking up early, and might not give my all to the team.

I have felt this before, and I am sure I have made people on my team feel like this. What makes someone a great leader? A leader is great when they care about others and seek to understand their goals and where they line up with the leader’s goals they inspire them to compete together to reach them. The minute a team member starts to feel like the goal has changed, or they don’t share a common goal, their commitment starts to slip.

So whether you are on a sports team, a team at work, or your family team, if you want to be a great leader help add value to them by knowing their goals, and helping them reach them.


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