Leadership is a funny thing. You don’t typically realize that you’ve lost influence until it is long gone. I’ve been led in multiple ways over the course of my personal and professional life and have noticed that my perception of leadership has evolved dramatically as I age.
Growing up, my football coaches were the epitome of leaders in my eyes. “Do as I say,” was the mantra that led me to develop a mindset that success and failure was dependent on my ability to execute on the orders that they gave me. I utilized this approach when I was “promoted” into being a Sales Manager in 2005. At the ripe old age of 24, I decided that this world-conquering power that had been bestowed upon me would allow me to make people do what I told them to do and that they would do what I said…or else.
Well, it turns out that position and title do NOT equal leadership. During 2009 I found myself being a good balance of Ari Gold from HBO’s Entourage and the Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. I’ll never forget losing my mind one morning in our office when no one on my team was busy calling to set appointments. “GET ON THE PHONES!!!!!!!!!” I screamed, and turned to the office of my business partner. “Scott, why will they not do what I am telling them to do?!” I slammed my door for extra emphasis then proceeded to do the exact opposite of what I was yelling about; get back to answering my emails. My hypocritical mindset was the catalyst for things going backwards for our team.
Life has an interesting way of knocking you down from a false perch like this. As the number of advisors on our team began to dwindle and we had to dig ourselves out of the Great Recession, a true twist of fate came my way. I enrolled in NAIFA’s (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors) Leadership In Life Institute program in 2010. This program is designed for people who are looking to become leaders in their companies. For me, however, it was an opportunity to hit the reset button as I understood what it meant to be an authentic leader. “Look in the mirror and not out the window,” was a quote that still sticks with me to this day. Do some self-evaluation before you immediately judge other people who choose not to follow your approach to life or business.
Understanding that leaders do not simply bark commands from behind a desk and that your title does not equal leadership are two of the biggest shifts in my mindset as it relates to propelling our team forward. True influence involves impacting people in a way that empowers them, especially those who look to you for development and inspiration. “My and Me” need to be replaced with “We and Us” if you truly want to foster an environment of collaboration, trust, and common vision.
To conclude, I would simply encourage everyone to focus on what they truly WANT out of their future for themselves and their teams. By understanding where you collectively want to go, or what you would like to build together, you can authentically lead from a position of strength. Like the saying goes, “I could give you a ticket to anywhere, but if you don’t know where you’re going you won’t get there.” Engage your team and have them join you in forging a vision. From there, leading by doing is a much more fun journey to experience and share with those around you.