A Lesson In Leadership: Your Patience When You Have Nothing and Your Attitude When You Have Everything Will Define You

My hometown in Maryland is covered in a blanket of snow. There is something peaceful about the Winter-pause as we wait for the promise of Spring, where nature regrows and transforms, a part of a cycle much bigger than a singular change, a singular thing.

As I look out the window of my home office, Winter reminds me of an important lesson in the cycle of leadership and transformation. As a leader, you will be defined by two things: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. It seems simple, maybe vague, but as I think back on many leaders I've encountered and my own journey, this concept still rings true.

During my career I have met all types of leaders. Leadership, like supply chain and technology, has evolved where progressive approaches are needed. One must inspire, build camaraderie, and create guardrails for the pace and adoption of change. I am reminded of one leader in particular who simply couldn't grasp the concepts of patience and humility. I watched his journey as a "leader", VP to C-Suite, and his descent whilst gathering many lessons learned that I've used in my career. 

image retrieved from: http://www.iedc.si/blog/single-blog-post/iedc-ideas/2016/04/08/modern-approaches-to-leadership

During his climb to the top of the corporate hierarchy, he was aggressive in his tactics, often times more focused on posturing and politics than people and politeness. I watched him use power and words as weapons, divisive and harsh. Instead of treating others with respect, regardless of title, he missed a great opportunity to develop others and add value to himself during his own development. 

I learned to always choose words wisely, that one day you may have to eat them. So, make sure the words you use are constructive. It's important to brand change and messaging while building a new organization. The days of influencing through 'a hard thumb press' via hierarchy are gone, especially in a Digital Era. By 2020 about 50% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials (read more here). This requires a different approach for leading, connecting, communicating, and relating during supply chain transformations.

As a leader, it's critical to build a culture of continuous learning. More importantly, you must be an example, pushing yourself beyond boundaries of comfort. The C-Suite can no longer use 30+ years' experience as an asset. The reality is that a 20 year-old intern may walk through your door and know more about neural networks and blockchain than you. Be "leaderly" and show your team an attitude of stewardship (FYI, I LOVE that word). There is nothing more inspiring than folks sitting side-by-side experiencing something new, for the first time ~> together. 

You might have read between the lines. The descent of the leader I reference in this post was cold and harsh, such as life who gives us the test and lesson after. His attitude when he had everything was his fatal flaw. He forgot to add value to himself, add value to others, and add value to the world around him including his work-life balance. He was arrogant, but technology and the world around him was changing very quickly. He simply couldn't keep up or humble himself. The irony was several key people he mistreated and shunned during his climb, were the very people he needed during his descent to pivot and rebound. These key people also climbed the ranks through the years and he was met with the same courtesy he extended to them over the years. It did not end well. 

As a leader, you will be defined by two things: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. The most valuable lesson I've learned is to always be humble. The authentic relationships you form with your teams will define your success during transformations and into the horizon. As an eternal student of system dynamics, I am shocked when I see basic human courtesies ignored. Human behavior is very complex. We each bring our own value systems and perspectives to work each day. My point of view is...

  1. Be a Bridge. 
  2. Be a leader that listens, really listens.
  3. Meet the folks who support you where they are, not where you are.
  4. Be patient. Be humble. Help others, expecting nothing in return. 
  5. And most importantly be vulnerable enough to uncover the magic in honesty.

You don't have to have all the answers. You just have to create the space for others to blossom. I wish each of you all the best and remember, a leader's number one job is to grow more leaders within her organization.

>