Leaders on Leadership

In my observation of these things, leadership is obtained in one of two ways: 

1. It is ambitiously sought.  

  • I shall one day lead others! 
  • I will educate and study leadership to qualify myself!  

2. It is achieved: organically, accidentally, and oftentimes against your very will.  

  • I work hard, help others, and set an example – Oh, yeah, I guess I am a leader.  
  • I think outside my role and demonstrate impact to be harnessed. Promotion? Okay, sure!  

While one is not necessarily better than the other, the latter, the, Oh, I’m a leader now? How did that happen? is the one to investigate and nurture in yourself or your team.  

Upon happening into a situation like this myself recently, I reached out to some leaders I know for some bookly advice. I’ve led by example, I’ve embodied servant leadership principles, and I’ve operated in a peer-based feedback position to guide the work of others. Leadership as a concept wasn’t new to me, but the title, the expectations, and the responsibilities inherited from bestowed leadership – maybe a little new, and worth studying up a bit.  

Captain Reman: “I like that Simon Sinek book…”
That Simon Sinek book is Leaders Eat Last 

The Sales Soigneur, (formerly The Sales Cyclist), responded right after Noah. He seconded that recommendation and added, “I would read Tribal Leadership first. (it’s in our library).” 

ET-D2 provided a list of books, too, but made a point to differentiate them by the nature of their storytelling. Instead of how-tos, Jim prefers to read stories about real-life leaders and their challenges. His suggestions:  

  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben R. Rich 
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing and Nathaniel Philbrick 

The King of Cataloging had books outside the norm to recommend, too. In fact, they were books that he hadn’t even read yet. They were on his list to read in the future, demonstrating in action a tenant I believe in: keep learning. A perennial oversleeper, I was most intrigued by:  

  • The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod 

The Woman Behind the Curtain assures me she has some actual books she’s going to bring me the next time she’s in town, but even without specific recommendations, she’s helped. From getting CCed on relevant communications, being responsive when I’m in a pickle, and providing timely feedback – she’s modeling being a supportive leader each and every day.  

What’s worth observing, outside of the book recommendations themselves, is the diverse way each of my leader peers approached the prompt. Rich with their own personality, style, and preference, I can see here demonstrated much of their approach to leadership.  

And what does The Rhythm of Reman offer in terms of advice on leadership? Learn from those around you, learn from experts, and learn from yourself. My favorite strategy in life, and coincidentally in leadership as well, is to journal. I keep a OneNote tab affectionately called my Work Diary, and pour into it any negative or distracting thoughts, as well as long-term ideas or simple to-dos. In the very early days of leadership, reflecting on my interactions, what’s gone well and not at all well, and how I can approach the next day has helped keep me sane and helped me problem solve some of my own issues.  

Whether you’re a leader already (you are or can be!), or a leader yet to be pulled from rank and file while you were just over there not really minding your own business, solving problems, and finding ways to work smarter, look around you for the knowledge in the room. It’s there with you in the form of a lobby library (if you don’t have one… get one.), your fellow leaders, and in yourself.  

Finding herself at the front,  The Rhythm of Reman realizes she had better know where she’s going. Good thing there are others ahead of her in the distance to look to… for expert recommendations, advice, and just some direction. Comment below or connect with Andee directly.

The Mystical Art of Invisible Leadership

In the grand scheme of my life seemingly moments ago, I left my decade-long career in education to embark on the kooky ship of remanufactured transmissions with a spot on a marketing team. Few were surprised by the career change, but none were more buffaloed than I at the industry I found myself in.

Transmissions? They, like, shift, right? Cars, though both pleasant and convenient to have, mystify me. Mechanics and engineering are those branches of human ingenuity I have no hand in or comprehension of or knack for, but boy am I grateful they exist. Respect.

And while I could probably write an amusingly sad tale of a gal lost in the maze of production in “Transmission World,” that’s not this story. No, this is the story of how a teacher, a teacher leader, a teacher coach–a servant leader–a servant of her students, her community, and her fellow teachers left that expertise, the comfort zone, and leadership behind to… lead.

Wait, what? Bear with me.

Years before I learned about the term servant leadership coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, I was leading by serving without realizing it. Any and all participants in society as we know it have seen endless examples of traditional leaders: they point the way, they push from the back, they say and we do. Many of us, when a leader is needed, have stood up and taken the helm. Many of us, when a leader is needed, have sat quietly waiting for someone more proactive. I have done both.

A servant leader is the forward-facing boss sometimes when they need to be, when they are serving the needs of the group, those of us who decided not to take the helm, but also considers the growth and well-being of their communities. In this role, the servant-leader shares power by putting the needs of others first so that they may develop and perform to their potential.

As a teacher, I made sure to use my students’ interests and data to determine what they needed to learn as opposed to what I wanted to teach. As a coach, I made sure my teachers felt heard and respected, as that served the much-neglected area of teacher-wellness.

Enter Director of First Impressions position at a transmission remanufacturing company. I left my expertise behind me. Inside that hat, I kept my leadership confidence. As I’ve begun to adapt to an ever-changing day on an ever-changing team in an ever-changing field, I thought, Well, I’m not a leader anymore – better look to those who know what they’re doing!

Oh, for shame! In my new context, I’d forgotten myself.

As often the first person my colleagues see every day and the first person customers and vendors see for sure, I’ve found a way to serve them by being kind and personal, and perhaps most importantly, myself–authentic interactions being central to our company’s voice. This gives each individual a voice, a touchstone, someone who is in tune and interested in them.

In sending out mailings and updating customer information, I serve the sales team by telling them what I need, why, and how this serves not me, but them and their customers. Everybody wins!

And perhaps most importantly, and the area that anyone can do or do better, I am lucky enough to serve–from the of the tippy top to the new guy in maintenance–by constantly seeking to improve the culture in the place we all work every day. Birthdays, meaningful conversation, food, smiles, jokes, pop-a-shot, work anniversaries, food, sarcasm, sports banter–did I mention food?

The difference between traditional leadership and servant leadership is the care taken to make sure the highest needs are being served. I test myself each day: do those I’m interacting with grow as people? Do they become healthier, more autonomous, freer, or wiser? Do they in turn become servants? And, near and dear to my heart due to the diversity of those I serve, do the least privileged in my community feel served?

So, I’m not a fancy teacher leader anymore. Well, good, because I wasn’t happy. But by no means does that mean I can’t be a leader. I’ll serve in the ways I can–be it with a fresh coffee, a balloon, or major project–and a big part of that is by in fact growing myself.

Servant leadership isn’t about being a leader. We’re not all meant or interested in steering the ship and pointing the way; it’s about serving people and accidentally, almost as if by some magical mystical means, becoming a leader in the process.

For more information on servant leadership, check out the works of the insightful Robert K. Greenleaf.

photo credit: © kmlmtz66 – stock.adobe.com

 The Rhythm of Reman might be the newest gal on the block, but don’t let that fool you – she has more than a few fresh insights up her sleeve. Like what Andee has to say? Comment below or connect with her directly.