Thursday, June 16, 2011

How I Learned to Lead My First Follower

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Leadership is tough.  I mean really, honestly difficult.  As a leader, your job is influencing people to each do something that they wouldn’t have naturally done on their own, and then getting them all together to work towards a common goal that none of them naturally had in the first place.

You get advice, coming from above and below, telling you the good things you do are bad and the mistakes you make are correct, all for the sake of an individual’s temporary convenience.  As if that weren’t enough, you must search to find the gems of wisdom, coming from above and below, which will help you accomplish the mission and become a better leader.

I don’t even have to go to work to experience this.  When my alarm goes off in the morning, the first thing I hear is a voice saying, “Snooze!  Reset the alarm!  20 more minutes and then I’ll get up… PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!!”  Once I finally wake up, another voice nags, “Check e-mail.  Log onto Facebook… see if anyone left us a comment.”

Amidst all of that mental ruckus, I have a morning mission to accomplish.  My daily morning mission is as follows:
1.     Get up
2.     Clean up (shower/brush/shave)
3.     Dress up
4.     Wise up (read my Bible)
5.     Warm up (practice my musical instruments)
6.     Pack up (gather whatever I need for the day, i.e. lunch, work-related items, etc)

With all of these “ups” just waiting to be done, I was still stuck fighting all these voices trying to keep me down.  For years, the voices won.  I would start every morning with a fight against myself, give in for the sake of temporary convenience (a little extra sleep that wasn’t really restful, time on the computer that wasn't really useful, etc), and end with a race to get out the door and off to work.  Most mornings I spent in a foul mood until some outside force gave me a reason to smile.

I can tell you exactly when I learned to ignore those voices: May 10, 2011.  I had just returned from a tour of northern Oregon and I had to be at work at 5:30am for an early gig.  When my alarm went off at 4am, something clicked and said, “You, and your voices, will be much happier if you get up right now and start your day.”  I didn’t even wait for the normal voices to kick in… I just got up and started my morning routine.  That day was proof enough for me.  Every day since then, I have made it a point to get up early and get started.

I won’t make the claims that I now have all the time in the world, that I always complete my morning mission, or that I wake up feeling fully awake and energized.  I will say that starting each day without a fight has really helped me feel better and take far superior care of business throughout the rest of the day.

The “snooze-button voice” is now basically gone in the mornings, but the “e-mail/Facebook voice” is still there.   The “stay up another hour, you can still get stuff done on the computer” voice is my nighttime nemesis, too.  One demon at a time, thank you… I’m working on it.

My first follower was and is myself.  It took me 33+ years to really learn how to lead him.  When I really paid attention to him, I learned what I could accomplish, figured out when to say no to requests, discovered the difference between complaining voices and true insight, and got more accomplished.

The same lesson is true with anyone you lead.  When you take the time to pay attention to them, find out what motivates them, speak to them with common sense, and make the mission involve them, you won’t have to live each day feeling like you are fighting against your followers.

How can you expect to lead other people if you won't even lead yourself to:
1.     Get out of bed in the morning?
2.     Turn off the TV?
3.     Limit your time on Facebook?

What do you need to learn to lead in yourself?  What can you do to make that start happening today?


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