A Leader with the White Hat
There was once a man, who rode close to a battlefield past a small group of war-wearied soldiers, digging an almost impossible but obviously important defensive position. From a distance, the man heard, bone-rattling coughs from the exhausted soldiers who relentlessly tore at the ground to make way for a very crucial element of defense. The riotous section leader, making no effort to help them, was shouting orders, threatening punishment, if the work was not completed within the hour. “Why are you not helping?” asked the man on horseback.
“I am in charge. The men do as I tell them,” said the section leader, adding, “help them yourself if you feel strongly about it.”
In disbelief, the section leader watched the stranger dismount, pick up the tools, and helped the men to complete the task. Upon finishing, the stranger congratulated the men for their determination and headed to where the puzzled section leader stood.
“You should notify top command next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men-and I will provide a more permanent solution, “said the stranger.
Up close, the section leader could make out the face of the stranger, General Washington, and at this point he could only focus on the lesson he’d just been taught and the sheer humiliation which left his face flushed radish red.
This story reminds me of a popular saying, that to become a leader you must first become a servant. We are all leaders in different spheres of life, and there are times when we are called upon to wear the white hat.
Ella Wheeler once said that there are two kinds of people on earth; the people who lift and those who lean. What kind of leader are you? And how does your leadership affect the people you are leading?
The task of a leader is to inspire others to achieve great results and not to demean their efforts. Remember that, “You are not above any work you have the skills to do. Acting like you are, earns you nothing but disdain,” Mike Figliuolo.
Most often than not, in our workplaces, we have that supervisor, manager or CEO who go by the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. Most employees, who work under such leaders, come to work with “I have to” rather than “I enjoy to” attitude. What follows is a group of demotivated and unenthusiastic team who only look forward to going home at the end of the day.
A leader has the responsibility of providing guidance and support to their team. This you can achieve through leadership by example. Before you tell your colleague to do something, make sure that you would be willing to do it yourself. This way you are showing your colleague the possibility of accomplishing the said task.
Nevertheless, what is the essence of leadership when the effects cannot be felt? I once heard that as a leader, when you leave your team and things come to a standstill, then you were never a leader to begin with, but if you left the team and it was business as usual, then you are a true leader. Your followers should be able to follow in your footsteps, but if they are still trying to trace them, it shows you never impacted their lives in anyway.
By Drusilla Anyango ’15