As we end the year and approach the holiday season, I’d like to ask that you all view leadership as a gift, and one that you currently possess. Now, leadership can be a special, unique and often challenging present, but it is truly worthwhile.
Allow me to share a parable that will illustrate this point. A group of children are playing in the jungle near their tribe in central Africa, when a group of explorers approaches them. The explorers observe the children playing a game where they use dirty but somewhat shiny stones. The explorers ask their translator if the kids would trade their stones for some chocolate and the kids agree. When the explorers returned home, they discovered that the stones were large, coarse diamonds.
Now, for the explorers, the diamonds were highly valuable and worth a great deal of money in their culture. But to the children, these diamonds were simply toys that brought them joy and happiness. The true value of the diamonds was relative and not universal, much like leadership.
Everyone knows that leadership (like those stones) has value, but no one can truly agree on its worth. In the parable, the value of the stones all depends upon who has them and how they use them. Leaders ultimately become an asset in the way that they use their leadership. So, let’s look at a few tips that can help you embrace and add value to your leadership gift.
Like any gift, leadership is shareable. We can share the gift of leadership by mentoring future leaders. For example, if you want members to truly take ownership of a task and all of the responsibilities it entails, go deeper. Explain why this task is important and why their performance of the task truly matters.
An example could be having a junior student hold the kicking pad for other students. On the surface, the student may simply see himself as just holding a pad. But what if you explain to the student that every aspect of how he holds the pad — even the expressions on his face — can help his peers improve their kicks? You’ve now mentored that student towards better leadership.
If we think about the parable, the children saw the stones as common play things while the explorers discovered that they were much more valuable in another context (their culture). Helping a student understand how small tasks, when done with purpose and deeper knowledge, can have a larger meaning increases the value of the task and the student.
Be okay with showing others your gift of leadership. During Christmas and our birthdays, many of us connect with others and, inevitably, show the gifts that we received. Now, I’m not advocating showing off. But, if you received a nice gift, most of us are okay with letting friends and loved ones see it.
In the same sense, we can show others our leadership gift through having successful teams and high levels of achievement. Additionally, we can recognize our team members regularly and share in their growth and successes.
Finally, see leadership as an endowment. Truly great leaders develop a legacy of success and growth for their followers. This is true of awesome parents and stewards of an institution; they look at the present, but envision the future and act accordingly.
I recently had a young man reach out to me on social media and thank me for my words of encouragement and persistence to him in the past. He took the words to heart and said they inspired him to his current success. That meant something to me, since you never know how your words can uplift or hurt others.
As martial artists, we’re often judged not just by our rank but by the quality of people and instructors that we are. More importantly, this concept applies to the people we promote in rank over the years, too.
If we think about the parable again, the stones can be toys or diamonds. People will know the value of your leadership based on how you use it and how you allow it to impact others.
In closing, treat leadership like those stones, keep them well and value having them. Some days, we will see leadership (especially when it becomes tough and challenging) as nothing more than common stones. But when you truly can use leadership to change lives and create positive change, you have diamonds and much more. If nothing else, try not to throw those stones at anyone.
Dr. Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected]
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