It was story time! My kids were all ears as I recounted a painful, but memorable, tale from my childhood. It was about my encounter with sheep.
Our neighbor had a small flock of sheep. On occasion, they would break their pen and raid our vegetable patch. And my mum’s instructions were firm, “Drive those wooly critters off my patch!” I did not need another invitation.
With a big stick, I jumped the sheep. Whack! My stick connected with the rear flank of one sheep. It took of running with its flock-mates in tow. The air filled with dust and loud bleating. Satisfied that they were far away, I turned and ran back home.
That was a bad idea. I had almost made it back to our gate. Then I found myself flying through the air. A ram from the flock had tracked me down. He planted his head smack into my backside. I fell in a dusty heap, bleeding from scratches and writhing in pain.
And this is reminiscent of the life of a leader. When we are winning, it is very easy to become cocky. We forget that leadership is a journey and not an event. The danger is when we get side-tracked by our “triumphs”.
Just like I did when I thought I was one up against the sheep!
These are the moments that leave us vulnerable. It is should not confused with being openness. It is when we fall into a false comfort of invincibility. The three traps are control, credit and command. Fear or inability to tackle them can lead us into a vortex of failure.
1. Control because you can
It could start as trying to grow others. However, we begin to experience the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events. And it feels “good”! Everything becomes about “me”.
In contrast, a true leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. In this case, everyone benefits. It may be difficult to give up control in the beginning. But it is a fundamental building block of trust.
2. Credit for what we are not directly responsible for
The quality of a leader is directly proportional to his or her followers. When we are forget to recognize why we lead, pride easily checks in. Credit to success as a public acknowledgement or praise, given or received when a person’s responsibility for an action or idea becomes apparent.
However, this is a dangerous trap even for well-meaning leaders. When your team wins, it is tempting to hog the limelight. If this becomes a habit, a leader may degenerate into not accepting failure and instead deflecting it to his or her team. A leader always gives credit where it is due.
3. Command because “I am boss”
There is a fine line between leadership and domination. When we think we have an upper hand, we can easily morph from a leader to a dictator. This is when we accumulate and exercise of power by being at the “top of the pyramid.” People follow you because they may have no other option.
Unfortunately, when we lose that power, we lose our followers with it. When we glorify positions as leadership, no meaningful growth will take place. We must always remember that leadership is a mindset, not a position.
The highest reward for one’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” ~John Ruskin