Leadership for the Rest of Us – Part 1

Leadership for the Rest of Us – Part 1

Today, I am beginning a 3 part series called Leadership for the Rest of Us.  It will include 10 different, simple lessons of leadership for those of us who don’t have decades of experience or a doctorate in leadership.  These 10 lessons are for volunteers at non profits, folks who are new to the world of leadership, or those who find themselves in occasional leadership positions.

Let’s face it, leadership is not easy – in fact it can be quite messy.  And if we’re not intentional about the way we lead, it can become more trouble than it’s worth.  So, here are the first 4 leadership lessons…for the rest of us:

1. Invest in your successor. This may seem on the surface to be a longer term thing (and it is), but it actually has application in shorter term leadership moments.  The idea here is that you shouldn’t do it all yourself.  Leadership is about leading and influencing others – so you should delegate and always be on the lookout for someone to eventually take your place.  The best leaders give things away.  They aren’t intimidated by the talent, skills, and gifting of others.  So, this allows them to give the work, the ideas, the planning, the organization away to others.

Investing in others does require your acceptance of the risk that others will fail.  But, you have to allow them to fail well.  Training is key and if people are trained adequately in the beginning while using failure as a training opportunity when it happens, the people you’re investing in will succeed more often.  I would say, however, that failing at the same thing multiple times is not what I’m talking about here – but, rather, giving people the space and freedom to fail once, learn from the failure, and then take positive steps forward.

Investing in your successor requires you to identify those that have potential and then spending time with them.  So, who are you investing in right now?


2. Be a lifelong learner.  You’re reading my blog right now – so you must be interested in some level of learning.  But, I would say that this should be a top priority for you.  Of course, learner comes in a lot of different ways, but I would recommend using more than one avenue of education to accomplish this step as a leader.  Formal education such as pursuing a degree at a university would be a great thing for a leader.  For me, I am carefully considering obtaining a doctorate.  The goal should include becoming a better leader through the educational process.

Magazines, blogs, online resources, and webinars are a great way to keep learning.  It’s something that takes time and you have to make time for – but it’s worth it.  Find out who the experts are in your industry or area of responsibility and learn from them.  Read their blogs or follow them on Twitter.  Find out who they’re learning from and tap into those resources.  Schedule time in your day and/or week to sit down and learn from experts in order to grow as a leader.

What steps are you taking to be a lifelong learner?  What are some blogs or other resources you read to grow in your own leadership?


3. Reward in public, discipline in private.  Recognizing publicly the folks that you lead should be a way of life for you.  People need to hear that they’re doing a good job – and they need to hear it from you.  This should be scheduled into your team meetings, it should happen spontaneously, and it should happen on the spot when good things are being done.  When you reward people in public, it builds up the person that your rewarding and it sets a tone for the rest of the team – but it also reinforces the good things that all team members should be striving towards.

Correction and discipline is a reality no matter what kind of leadership situation you find yourself in.  The worst thing you can do is to confront and try to correct the person in front of others…especially their peers.  This is true no matter how big or small the error, offense, etc. is.  These conversations should be held behind closed doors for a number of reasons – it maintains employee morale, it allows the person who is being confronted to retain some dignity as well as a status in his/her peers’ eyes, and it keeps confidential things confidential.

In what way have you rewarded someone publicly lately?  Is disciplining in private a practice you employee?  If not, what steps can you take this week to be sure you are not crossing this line?


4. People are your most important resource.  It’s easy to think that money, or profit, or facilities, or time are you best resources – but it’s actually people.  Because it’s people that lead you to have sales so that you can have money and profit, and it’s people that maintain the facilities so that things are in working order and clean, and it’s people that are able to help you so that you can have time to do other things.  And, the same way that you take care of money, facilities, and time you should be taking care of your people.

The people on your team should be taken care of financially, emotionally, and relationally.  Pay them an honest wage and give them incentives to do a good job.  If it’s a volunteer situation, give them a gift card every now and then or at least make sure that what you’re asking them to do as a volunteer doesn’t interfere with their ‘day job.’  Check on them and ask how they’re feeling and how their marriage is.  Ask about their kids and their satisfaction with their job/position.  Spend time with them.  Take them to lunch or out to coffee.  Become someone that they can talk to.

Great leaders remove obstacles so that people can do what they do best.  Obstacles can be a lack of resources or training, personal issues that affect their work, or others on the team that are not pulling their own weight.  Leaders remove obstacles.  So, what obstacles are you removing so the people you lead can be more effective?  Are you investing in your people financially, emotionally, and relationally?


Ok, that’s the first 4.  There are 6 more that will happen in future posts.  But, in the meantime, what are you taking away from these 4.  Are they reinforcing what you already knew?  Did you have any ah-ha moments of enlightenment?  Post them below!

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5 thoughts on “Leadership for the Rest of Us – Part 1

  1. Terry Gilbert

    Good stuff Tim. I only directly supervise one other person in my office and have an official mentorship with three others both inside and outside my office. Your lessons are a great reminder about being intentional about those relationships.

    Your point about investing in your successor is well taken but one that I think might come with some hesitation to some (I believe you alluded to it). I’m thinking about the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin stuff that’s been dominating the sports headlines for the past week. Among the many, many layers to the story is one that can’t be forgotten: veteran players are expected to help mentor and build up younger players – that may very well take their spots on a roster with a finite amount of space. In a perfect world, both would succeed collectively and individually, but that may not always happen. I think the same thing might apply to settings outside of sports. Those in higher positions may be reluctant to cultivate new talent for the same fears, be it real or perceived. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. Breaking through that can be difficult.

    1. TimParsonsLeadership

      Great comments Terry! Thanks for posting!!

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