At the 1993 annual meeting of the American Heart Association, 300,000 doctors, nurses and researchers met to discuss, among other things, the importance a low-fat diet plays in keeping our hearts healthy. Yet, during mealtimes, the delegates consumed fat-filled food such as bacon cheeseburgers and fries - at about the same rate as other people from other conventions. When one cardiologist was asked whether or not his partaking in high-fat meals set a bad example, he replied, "Not me, because I took my name tag off." (Citation: Boston Globe (11-10-93).
I don't know about you, but this story highlights the standard others have come to expect. The importance of consistency is not to be underestimated. We all deal with situations where we are under pressure to conform. We often have just a split second to make a decision on matters of choice and integrity. Doing the right thing is the duty of everyone who considers themselves a leader, there is no other expectation.
An Olympic equestrian champion was once asked. "How does your horse know when it has to leap the hedges and hurdles, and why do some horses turn away or stumble?"
The woman answered, "That's simple, You tear your heart out of your body and throw it over the hedge. The horse knows how desperate you are to catch up with your heart. So it leaps."
Those following a leader are a form of heart monitor also. They monitor the 'heart' of a leader in times of challenge, crisis, uncertainty and success whether the leader is aware of this or not. They see the heart of the leader clearly in each of these circumstances, and what's more they talk to each other about what they observe.
The question is, 'What do they see?'
A professional bird catcher or 'Fowler' in the days previous to firearms captured birds with nets spread on the ground, in traps and snares. There was also a practice of taking young birds from a nest, raising them by hand and using them to call others of their kind to come to their aid, then the hunter would kill them by bow and arrow.
It all sounds very crafty, but the modern day message from this is that 'every trap has a bait.'
Usually the bait is associated with pleasure, profit or advantage. People go to great lengths for these three lures, yet the decoy pulls them in all the time.
We need to be careful these days what we get drawn or enticed into. Many people fall for scams, affairs or false promises. The form of these traps can be crafty and subtle, very subtle indeed. in fact, they are nicely positioned to be so on purpose. Unfortunately, they have lasting consequences and many people wish they had the benefit of hindsight.
Is the Leader worth their salt?
Whenever you put salt on food, you never say that was great salt, but rather that was great food and it tasted great. Likewise, whenever you are salt to a group of people, people don't go away saying what a great person you are, but rather what a great group or meeting that was.
The simple fact is that salt makes people feel better about life. It could also be described as influence. A person of influence (positive of course) can really make a difference to those around them. Leaders should be such people. There are many sources of influence in this world, many of which lead people down the wrong path.
Natural and effective leaders are like salt to people in just the same way salt is to food. Their influence leaves followers equipped, empowered and inspired to go further, reach higher and overcome obstacles, yet very often followers aren't even aware of the salt cellar being shaken.
If we listen to the experts (they're usually based at least 40 miles from home), we would know that success is best obtained if a young person works really hard at school and even harder at university. They then get onto the career ladder and off they go, catapulting into the world of work.
No doubt, this well trodden route is a familiar story for so many, and it works well for the majority of people involved.
However, there are many people out there that this doesn't apply to, and they turn out to be every bit successful or more.
One thing I've realised the older I've got is that there are many roads that lead to a destination. The roads vary and people take different routes, but they still get there in the end.
It's also a fact that so much of early life is based on conditioning, often by those closest. It can be constant encouragement, or persistent discouragement and there are many instances of parents trying to live out their own dreams through their children.
I remember hearing the story of a guy who as a child ran over the fields home from school excited to tell his father that he'd came second in a regional music exam. The father looked at him and said, 'do you never come first in anything?' The guy went on to say, 'I'm now 55 years old and I run a company where 600 people report to me each day, yet I'm still trying to prove myself to my own father.'
Acknowledging that we are all different is a good thing. The fact that our experience is unique to us, is a good thing. The more we come to understand that each one of us has different gifts and talents, the more we will appreciate that society is made up by a wide variety of people. We are all different, each of us with a unique background, and all capable of making an equal contribution to business, relationships and life.
Striking a work/life balance..
It always interests me to see people work through the various stages of life, for instance those finishing school, college or university and setting out into the world of work for the first time. It's nice to watch the satisfaction of that first pay packet and the promise of so much more.
Then fast forward a few years and for many the spouse appears, the house is found and either a rent or a mortgage comes next, closely followed by the patter of tiny feet. By now, the novelty of the first pay packet has well and truly worn off.
This coincides with promotion and added responsibility at work, or perhaps it's the new business venture. Either way it brings stress and longer hours; it promises the dream and the idea of greater reward in the future. Meanwhile, the family is growing and the demands are also increasing at home, yet the challenge of being present in body and spirit is a real one.
It's not long before relationships strain and communication at home is limited to a few minutes about the children, bills or the house. Tiredness sets in and before long it's time for a good dose of reality.
The reason why I'm drawn to this is that I'm now at an age where I've went through many of these seasons myself. I'm obviously writing from the perspective of a husband and a father, and at a time a selfish one too I must confess. I worked hard yes, but when I came home I wanted my share of down time too.
If I learned anything from going through these stages of life, it's this, 'Take time to appreciate the here and now. Value what you have now, not in the future. Appreciate your spouse and spend time with your children, that's what they really want more than anything else.'
I thank God that I came to understand this early enough to do something about it.
Let's not live life with regrets, wishing we could wind the clock back if it were possible.
The Trust Factor in Leadership
In 2009 a Gallup research team asked more than 10,000 followers what the most influential leaders contribute to their lives. Four basic needs were identified in this study:
The last two initially got me thinking. So many leaders have to provide stability in difficult times, yet also at the same time give a measure of hope to followers about the future.
This is easier said than done of course. For example, if the future is uncertain, it's likely to have an affect on stability in the now. Alternatively, if things are unstable now, it's quite a challenge to inspire hope for a better tomorrow. (Politics are a current example of this)
Followers of course love compassion, but trust is where it all begins and ends in leadership.
Trust is a two way thing. I once heard a story by a guy called Ranjith Kumar which explains this very well:
A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. The father said to his daughter, 'please hold my hand.' The little girl said, 'No, Dad. You hold my hand.' 'What's the difference?' Asked the puzzled father. 'There's a big difference,' replied the little girl.
'If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.'
The moral of this story is this:
In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond.
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