It isn’t what a leader says. It is what they do that matters. Actions speak louder than words. We saw this in action when our high school soccer team went to help the flood victims in the Clendenin, WV area a couple of weeks ago.
When I had a chance to stop and look around I was surprised that there were really only two people actually running the relief center. One was Mallow, the WV State Police officer and the other was a man running around with an orange vest, a cell phone and a two way radio who was coordinating where workers and aid were needed. There were easily 100 or more volunteers. People assumed leadership positions for segments of the project work as necessary. One lady explained to us how we needed to organize the supplies. She worked with my group for a little while and then disappeared. When new volunteers showed up and jumped in to help I trained them and when we had to move to another area they took over and became the leaders. I was surprised how smoothly everything went and how much was accomplished. How did this happen? Is there a truth we can apply to other projects and organizations?
I believe that one key is a leader with a vision. The police woman, Mallow, was experienced and knew how everything needed to be organized. She knew how to communicate her vision. She then personally trained the first set of leaders and they trained their replacements. Mallow clearly was able to influence people and develop people.
The second thing I saw was what the leaders were DOING. They were working not just directing. They were all leading with actions not just words. Mallow wasn’t the commander or the boss she was the leader. She treated everyone with respect and appreciation. She led by example and her example was followed by the volunteer leaders. When it was all put together the result was positive. The work got done and the volunteers left feeling fulfilled. Most important, they continue to return. Mallow knew how to keep people motivated with her appreciation. We could also see the appreciation in the victims we assisted. We knew that what we were doing was important.
Mallow knew that volunteers don’t want to be commanded. (They probably get that at work.) She knew that the volunteers were already motivated. We all had driven some distance to get there and everyone was willing to give up their time and some money since everyone brought supplies. Mallow knew that no one needed commanded, just influenced and trained. We followed her example and attitude.
What about us? In these challenging times we need to be leaders not commanders. How are you working with your best people, those who are already leaders or have potential? Are you commanding them or leading them? If you are commanding you may not be getting their best because they are looking to you for a decision or an idea. What we need today is everyone’s best ideas and best efforts. If your people know the vision like we did at Clendenin, are motivated and know that as leaders you expect them to act, they will act. You may be surprised at what they accomplish.
You may not always be pleased with the result. If this is the case, before you say or do anything go look in the mirror. Remember as the higher level leader you are still responsible. We can delegate authority but not responsibility. What kind of example did you give them? If they really did make a mistake, coaching is the best solution. As a manager I had a young supervisor make a mistake that cost us a lot of money. He was upset with himself and asked me if I was going to demote him. I responded, “Heck no. I have too much money in your education.” He never made the mistake again and turned out to be one of our best supervisors. My investment paid off.
Look at the anti- fossil crowd like Yoko Ono, Matt Damon, David Letterman and other celebrities. They tell everyone that we need to move to renewables then they all get into their limos and private jets built and fueled by “fracking” to travel about the country. Hydraulic Fracturing has made them all multimillionaires because, CDs, DVDs, movies and television could not exist without petrochemicals from oil and natural gas wells that have all been “fracked”. What these celebrities’ actions are telling their followers is, “Fracking and fossil fuels are bad for you. You need to stop using them and plan to pay more for your energy use less. But I am rich and special and will continue my lifestyle as is. I need to fly my fracking built and powered jet.” It is not what a leader says it is what they DO that counts.
Why are these leaders still using fossil fuels instead of wind and solar? The clear message it sends is that they know renewables are a farce or they really are clueless that almost everything we have and use comes from fossil fuels like modern medicine, our clothing and electronics. Even electric cars, windmills and solar panels can’t exist without fossil fuels.
Now more than ever your organization and our country need strong leaders. Set the vision. Take the actions you want your people to follow. Let your people know you appreciate them. Develop your people. Train them. Coach them. You need their ideas and hard work now. As the business turns around they will be your future leaders. Thoughts to ponder.