If you want a starring role, you’ll miss the miracle. If you’re willing to be an ordinary extra, God will do something extraordinary. – Mark Batterson, The Grave Robber
A story is told of a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests.
When the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled epicures praised this exquisite tea. The host smiled and said, "The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.”
In recent years there has been an explosion of books and material on the topic of leadership. I am not only a contributor to the topic of leadership but I am also a consumer as it’s in my interest both personally and professionally to grow and develop. A recent Google search of leadership books netted more than 67,300,000 hits. Talk about your reading list!
With the availability of such quantities of leadership material out there perhaps it’s time to think through our expectations of leadership and what constitutes being a good leader in today’s world. Too often we look at those who have a large spotlight and are seen as the “superstars” in the world of leadership and think we can never measure up. We’ve read all about going from “good to great” but how do we simply become good or better- much less “great”?
I’d like to offer up some practical tips and words of encouragement for all current and aspiring “ordinary extra” leaders who daily work to make a difference. Here are four tips to help you become better.
Stay the course
My friend Dr. Greg Morris (on Twitter @LdshpDynamics) uses this phrase frequently and it has stuck with me – stay the course. I think on many levels this is part of the secret of being a good leader. There’s nothing really glamourous about it. It’s just a simple reminder that being a good leader and becoming a better leader is a matter of commitment. When times are tough – stay the course. When critics attack – stay the course. In times of success – stay the course. Leaders who last are committed and committed leaders stay the course.
Leaders who grow and improve their leadership skills over time have an insatiable desire to learn and grow. Curiosity is the gift that keeps on giving and good leaders ask the questions that one no else is asking, and as my friend Dan Rockwell suggests, will ask the second questions (http://bit.ly/1pWVyeG). Curious leaders want to know what his or her people are saying and thinking so that the culture of the organization remains healthy and strong. Curious leaders want to know what the customers are thinking in order to better serve them and to improve the bottom line. Curiosity will keep your thinking fresh and your skills sharp. What are you curious about?
It’s similar in nature to curiosity so being connected is central to your growth as a leader. Being connected is about relationships and communication. These are the basic tenants of your leadership development. Good leaders value and build relationships. Communication works best when relationships are strong. Being connected is an intentional act of your leadership. There are no shortcuts when it comes to being connected and there’s no better person to do it than you. If you want your people to connect with you then you have to take the first steps and connect with them.
Confidence is a key component to your success. You have achieved the measure of success that you enjoy, in part, because of confidence in your abilities and using them wisely. But this encouragement is dispensed also with a dose of warning. Be careful not to become arrogant and believe it’s all about you. It’s not. But confidence is needed in order to grow and become a better leader. In as much as low morale is devastating to the culture of your organization, so too, will low self-esteem hinder your personal growth. Stay confident in your abilities and keep your ego to yourself.
When you are willing to be an “ordinary extra” type of a leader you can make a significant difference. Your name may not be in the limelight but your contributions are just as valuable. Stay the course!
© 2014 Doug Dickerson